|Article in the Sunday Times -
Business Focus on 02.03.2003
speculation surrounds the possibility of Dermot Desmond, the Irish
tycoon, making a bid for (Manchester) United, family interests of his
friend, billionaire investor Joe Lewis, are rumoured to be behind moves
to take another football-related company private.
While Desmond is the single biggest
investor in the Scottish club Celtic and has recently taken a stake in
United, Lewis' son Charlie is the main shareholder in ENIC, the
investment firm with stakes in several football clubs, including
Celtic's great rivals Rangers, FC Basel of Switzerland, Vicenza in Italy
and, most notably, North London club Tottenham Hotspur, where it owns
Last week, ENIC announced it had received
a takeover approach, widely believed to have come from Charlie Lewis and
ENIC boss Daniel Levy, who between them own 52%. The City would
certainly not shed any tears over the prospect of the company taking
itself private, apart from any investors who did not book profits when
ENIC shares peaked at 382p. They hit 24.5p last month before news
of the bid approach.
ENIC's biggest achievement was making
£60m from the sale of shares in the IT company Autonomy, of which it was
an early backer. It also has a cash pile of £22m. But it
misses have been more frequent.
When ENIC was launched, betting on
football seemed like a good idea. But the strategy of taking
stakes in several clubs was stopped by UEFA. The governing body of
European football was concerned that organisations owning more than one
team and playing matches in the same competition could fix matches.
There is no suggestion that ENIC tried this.
Its other investments have included a
casino in Las Vegas - hit by the collapse in tourism after September 11
- and the Warner Bros Studio Stores in England, which it sold to