Dubai said on Monday it is in talks about possibly investing in Liverpool Football Club and the 18-time English champions will open their books within days to a state investment agency headed by an ardent fan.
Dubai International Capital (DIC), which the Gulf emirate used to buy the waxwork-museum owner Tussauds Group, is in exclusive negotiations with the Merseyside club, DIC said in a statement, confirming months of speculation in the British media.
"Dubai International Capital will be commencing due diligence in the coming days," the statement said, without giving a value for any deal, which British newspapers said could be worth 450 million pounds.
"Liverpool's investment requirement [has] been well publicised and we hope we can agree a deal that will provide the club with the funds it needs both on and off the pitch," the statement quoted DIC chief executive Sameer al-Ansari as saying.
Ansari, who has led other Dubai acquisitions including last year's purchase of a $1 billion stake in DaimlerChrysler, also has a personal interest in this deal and uses the Liverpool emblem as a screensaver on his mobile phone.
"I've been a fan of Liverpool ever since I was kid," said Ansari, 44, an Arab of Palestinian origin who was educated in England.
Liverpool FC has been seeking an injection of cash for more than two years to help reclaim its place at the top of English football and fund a new stadium.
The 2005 European champions last won the league title in 1990 and the club has lived in the shadows of Manchester United and Arsenal, and more recently Chelsea, which has benefited from a takeover by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
The club said in March chairman David Moores was looking to sell some or all of his 51.5 percent stake.
The Times of London reported on Monday that Liverpool was close to accepting a 450 million pound deal from DIC.
Under the deal DIC will take on 80 million pounds in Liverpool debt and provide the club with up to 200 million pounds for a new 60,000 capacity stadium, the paper said.
Moores valued the club at 170 million pounds, the Times reported.
Belfast property tycoon John Miskelly and American billionaire George Gillett were among other contenders for a Liverpool stake, it said.
Liverpool have been linked with numerous investors since news broke that the club had held talks with ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in March 2004.
Local businessman Steve Morgan, media investment group L4 and the American Kraft family have also previously confirmed interest in buying Liverpool shares.
The trend of non-British businessmen buying English football clubs started when Egyptian businessmen Mohamed Al Fayed bought Fulham FC in 1997 for 30 million pounds.
In 2003, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea for 60 million pounds and Texan oil billionaire Martin Glazer paid 790 million pounds to acquire Manchester United in 2004.
Last month a consortium led by Icelander Eggert Magnusson agreed to buy West Ham United.