» Sports » Al-Fayed may sell Fulham

Al-Fayed may sell Fulham

By Elena Moya
March 29, 2007 13:13 IST
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Mohamed al-Fayed, owner of Harrods, is planning to sell Fulham F.C., the football club he owns in the capital, sources familiar with the situation said.

In 1997, Egyptian-born Al-Fayed, whose son Dodi died with Princess Diana in a car crash that year, invested 30 million pounds ($58.93 million) in Fulham and took over as chairman after agreeing to acquire a controlling stake.

"He's interested in selling it," said one of the sources.

With Al-Fayed's financial backing Fulham repurchased the freehold to their Craven Cottage stadium on the banks of the river Thames in west London for an estimated 7.5 million pounds, while on the pitch they were promoted to the top flight in 2001.

Fulham F.C. officials weren't immediately available for comment.

Investors have been attracted by the English league, the largest and most profitable in world football, which has doubled its sales to 2 billion euros (1.358 billion pounds) in five years, according to data from accountancy firm Deloitte & Touche.

"Premiership clubs' overall revenues are set to grow significantly in the 2007/08 season when new broadcasting contracts should increase annual revenue to over 2.5 billion euros," Deloitte said recently in a report.

"The legal structures and business culture leaves English clubs more open to changes of ownership than in many other European countries," the Deloitte report said.

Recent soccer deals have valued clubs at between 1.5 and 2 times annual turnover. Fulham had annual sales of 36.2 million pounds in the 2004/05 season, according to Footballeconomy Web site. A club spokesman declined to disclose a sales figure.


Appetite from financial investors for British clubs is expected to continue.

Five-times European champions Liverpool was recently bought by U.S. tycoons George Gillett and Tom Hicks for 174 million pounds, while league leader Manchester United was bought by Texan oil millionaire Malcolm Glazer for 790 million pounds in 2005.

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich purchased Chelsea in 2003 for about 60 million pounds.

Aston Villa was taken over in September by American billionaire Randy Lerner for 62.6 million pounds, while Alexandre Gaydamak acquired full control of Portsmouth in July 2006.

In November last year, West Ham United agreed to an 85 million pound takeover from a consortium led by Iceland Football Association president and UEFA member Eggert Magnusson.

Newcastle United was recently approached by Polygon, a hedge fund, and by investment group Belgravia Group, though both parties withdrew their interest.

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Elena Moya
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