Competition for Forest hotting up

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The Independent Online
At least two firm bids were submitted yesterday for Nottingham Forest, the struggling Premiership football club. However, as the deadline for offers passed yesterday afternoonthere was speculation that other bidders might still be in the frame including a consortium involving Norwegian agent Rune Hauge, who was at the centre of the Arsenal "bungs" scandal.

Definite bids have been tabled by a consortium involving Lawrie Lewis, the founder of Blenheim Group, the exhibitions company that was recently sold for pounds 600m, Irving Scholar, the former Tottenham Hotspur chairman, and Phil Soar, a former chief executive of Blenheim who is also a Forest supporter and an author of football books. Their bid is thought to be for around pounds 12.5m cash with plans to raise a further pounds 20m through a stock market flotation.

The second bid is from a group of Nottingham businessmen, fronted by chartered accountants BDO Stoy Haywood. This is also a cash bid thought to be in the region of pounds 15m. However, the Stoy Haywood group has ruled out an immediate stock market flotation due to the club's lowly league position and poor profit record. It hopes to improve the club's finances and groom it for a flotation in three to four years.

Mr Hauge, who also led a consortium that lost out in the bid for Leeds United earlier this year, is said to have expressed an interest in Forest.

It is understood that Grant Bovey, a 35-year-old Nottingham born businessman, has pulled out of the bidding.

It is also thought that John Bredenkamp, a former arms dealer who now manages the affairs of top sporting personalities, has not tabled an offer.

Forest is under pressure to resolve its ownership structure quickly as the uncertainty could affect the team's performance. Forest are currently second from bottom in the Premiership.

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