Asians seek stake in football glory

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Manchester City and Birmingham City, two of the Premiership’s less fashionable clubs, are preparing to revive old glories on the back of new owners from east Asia.

Thaksin Shinawatra increased his stake in Manchester City on Wednesday, buying Sky’s 9.9 per cent stake in the Premier League club and moving closer to outright control.

Meanwhile, Carson Yeung Ka Sing, a Hong Kong investor, has paid £1m entitling him to a right to buy a 29.9 per cent stake in newly promoted Birmingham City within three weeks, in a deal which would value the club at £49m.

Mr Thaksin, the former Thai prime minister who faces corruption charges in his homeland, now has guarantees over 66 per cent of the club. Last week he received irrevocable undertakings from 56 per cent of the club’s shareholding after lodging an £81.6m takeover bid.

Thai authorities have given Mr Thaksin and family members a further month to comply with an order to return to the country to face charges of a fraudulent filing for a family real estate company and failing to report to the Thai stock exchange the sale of shares.

Mr Thaksin said in a Financial Times interview last week that he intended to return to Thailand at some stage, but not in the immediate future.

Instead, he is pressing on with plans for Manchester City, and has secured an agreement in principle from Sven-Göran Eriksson, the former England coach, to take over as manager.

Birmingham City’s owners are looking to sell the Midlands club but it is not yet clear whether Mr Yeung’s prospective stake purchase will lead to a full offer.

A statement from Birmingham City said there was no indication a formal offer would be made for the whole company, but discussions were continuing with Grandtop International, a Hong-Kong-listed investment vehicle part-owned by Mr Yeung.

Brothers David and Ralph Gold and David Sullivan, owners of the Daily and Sunday Sport newspapers, are between them giving Hong Kong-listed Grandtop International 29.6 per cent of the club.

Karren Brady, the club’s managing director, and Roger Bannister, another director, are offering him smaller stakes.

One person close to the situation said that Mr Yeung was thought to be a cautious investor who may wait several months before deciding whether to take full control of the club.

Meanwhile Arsene Wenger, Arsenal’s manager, will return from holiday next week for a meeting with directors urgently wanting to know if he will extend his contract with the north London club.

The retention of Mr Wenger is the club’s most pressing priority, insiders at the club said.

His future has been thrown into doubt following the departure of David Dein, Arsenal’s former vice-chairman and close confidant of the manager, after a boardroom dispute centring on the 12.9 per stake of US billionaire Stan Kroenke.

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