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Takeovers have become a prominent part of modern football, with barely a week going by without a major club somewhere around the world reported to have caught the eye of a passing multi-billionaire. These can be exciting times for the supporters involved, with many spending far too many man hours meticulously planning how the new-found wealth can be spent. Takeovers are not always lined with gold, though, as investors, as crazy as it sounds, do not always have the club's best interests at heart. A number of sides have found this out the hard way over recent years, with spiralling debts and substandard performances not what they signed up for. Takeovers, it seems, can be a mixed bag, with the dividing line between success and failure easily blurred. Liverpool supporters will be praying that their potential new investors prove to be considerably more effective than their current American owners and, in the wake of a bid being accepted by the Reds from the owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, we at skysports.com take a look back at some of the most memorable takeovers from the recent(ish) past.
The growth of Manchester United into an all-conquering global brand has ensured that they have always been a much sought-after possession. Rupert Murdoch was the first to try and buy into the Old Trafford machine in 1998, but his efforts ultimately came to nothing. The door was left ajar, though, for other potential investors and American tycoon Malcolm Glazer quickly began buying up shares. He took control of United in 2005 when JP McManus and John Magnier agreed to sell their stakes. The Glazers have, however, saddled the club with crippling debts and talk of a potential bid from a group of wealthy supporters calling themselves the Red Knights has long been touted.
Abramovich was the man to start the trend of billionaire owners in the Premier League, having strolled into Chelsea back in 2003. The Russian oil magnate quickly set about turning the Blues into a dominant force in English football, with no player seemingly too costly for the ambitious capital club. The appointment of Jose Mourinho helped Chelsea to fulfil their potential and they returned to the top of the tree last season when they landed a domestic double. Abramovich has tightened the purse strings somewhat over recent years, leading to suggestions that he is growing tired of his football plaything, but he continues to bankroll a side which is widely considered to be among the best in Europe.
Queens Park Rangers have enjoyed a productive opening to the 2010/11 campaign and could be set for a return to the big time after a 14-year absence. Their success has been based on a takeover put in place in 2007 which saw a collection of extremely wealthy businessmen buy into the club. Formula One tycoons Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore acquired Rangers for £14million, sparking a sudden rise in expectations around Loftus Road. The family of billionaire Lakshmi Mittal then bought into the side in December 2007, helping to complete the formation of a formidable boardroom. Slow progress has been made since then, but the vast experience of wily tactician Neil Warnock appears to have QPR heading in the right direction once more.
Manchester City could not believe their luck in the summer of 2008 when it emerged that substantial Middle Eastern investment was heading their way. The club was already in the hands of foreign owners at the time, with former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra at the helm. His wealth paled into insignificance, though, when compared to that of Arab politician Sheikh Mansour. His Abu Dhabi United Group swept into Eastlands promising the world, and they have been able to deliver so far. Vast amounts of money have been spent on piecing together a side capable of competing for top honours and emerging from the shadow of arch-rivals from across the city, Manchester United.
Better known now for hiring and firing on hit TV series 'The Apprentice', Lord Alan Sugar once dipped his toe in the murky waters of football chairmanship. Teaming up with Terry Venables in June 1991, Sugar saw off a rival bid from media magnate Robert Maxwell to purchase Tottenham Hotspur. He quickly distanced himself from supporters, though, when it became apparent that he intended to run the club as a business and potential money-making machine. In fact, Sugar was never far from controversy throughout his White Hart Lane reign, once branding foreign players looking to make a quick buck in the Premier League as 'Carlos Kickaballs'. He sold his majority stake in the club to ENIC in 2001, before ending his 16-year association with Spurs in June 2007 when he parted with his remaining shares - claiming his time with the club was 'a waste of my life'.
Elton John brought a dose of glitz and glamour to struggling Watford in 1976 when he fulfilled a childhood dream by buying into the unfashionable fourth tier side. Upon purchasing the club he installed himself as chairman and set about steering the Hornets back through the divisions. It was he who had the foresight to bring Graham Taylor on board as the man to guide the club forward, and his efforts were handsomely rewarded. Watford returned to the top flight inside five seasons and enjoyed a memorable, and emotional, day out at Wembley in the 1984 FA Cup final. John sold up in 1987, but returned to lend a helping hand a decade later and retains a significant financial interest in the club.
Egyptian entrepreneur Mohamed Al-Fayed has never been the shy and retiring type and Fulham must have wondered what they had let themselves in for when he rode into town on a horse-drawn carriage upon completing a takeover in 1997. The Harrods tycoon immediately declared that he intended to turn the then Second Division outfit into 'the Manchester United of the south' and pulled off the impressive coup of bringing in Ray Wilkins and Kevin Keegan to help him with his cause. The Cottagers clambered into the Premier League in 2001, thanks to Al-Fayed's backing, and, while they may not have lived up to their owner's lofty billing, they continue to hold their own in the top flight to this day.
The summer of 2009 descended into farce at Fratton Park, with Portsmouth Football Club passed around like a hot potato. It had become painfully apparent that owner Alexandre Gaydamak did not have the funds to stabilise the club, with the over-exuberant spending which took Pompey to the 2008 FA Cup starting to take its toll. Gaydamak agreed to sell to United Arab Emirates businessman Sulaiman Al Fahim in May 2009, but he had even less money. As a result, a 90 per cent stake in the club was moved on to Ali Al-Faraj in October, with the money pit now well and truly empty. Pompey lurched from one disaster to the next as the season unfolded and they became the first Premier League club to enter administration in February 2010. Pompey have been able to avoid a winding-up order so far, but they continue to teeter on the brink of collapse.
The football world was awoken from its slumber in June 2009 when it was announced that a Middle Eastern consortium was preparing to buy into Notts County and return the club to its former glories. It all seemed too good to be true for Magpies supporters, as former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson joined the board and ex-Arsenal and Tottenham centre-half Sol Campbell arrived on a five-year deal. In the end, it was too good to be true as it emerged that Munto did not have the means to match their ambitions. They sold the club to Peter Trembling in December 2009 for a nominal fee and County subsequently went on to secure the League Two title.
Having depressed slightly with a few tales of takeover strife, let us wrap up our run down on a light-hearted note. The efforts of Michael Knighton to purchase Manchester United in the summer of 1989 have passed into football folklore, and for good reason. The moustachioed property developer launched a £20 million bid for United and announced himself to the Old Trafford faithful by juggling a ball on the pitch before a game. The deal collapsed, though, leaving egg on his face and bringing a chuckle from those who witnessed his self-indulgent act at the Theatre of Dreams. Knighton went on to claim he had seen a UFO, while United have become a global phenomenon with countless accolades to their name - not difficult to see who benefited most from the collapsed deal.
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