Forest battle reaches final whistle

Two rival bidders for Nottingham Forest are set to make their final presentations to the club's shareholders this weekend ahead of a crunch meeting on Monday to decide the ownership of the Premiership strugglers, writes Nigel Cope.

The two groups will meet shareholders ahead of today's match against Aston Villa. With both the Nigel Wray-Phil Soar-Irving Scholar group and the venture capital-backed Albert Scardino consortium increasing their offers at the last minute, the battle is thought to be finely poised. But the final decision rests with the club's 202 shareholders, who each paid just pounds 1 for their stake.

They are a disparate group, including wealthy local businessman, pub owners and former players. They all qualify for shareholder privileges such as a free cup of tea at half time, a free programme and a cushion on which to watch games.

But on Monday the stakes are a little higher than a half-time beverage. The Soar-Scholar consortium is offering pounds 19.3m. The Scardino group, which now includes the Mansfield Brewery chairman Sir David White, was offering pounds 18.2m, but was yesterday understood to be considering its offer . Waiting in the wings is Sandy Anderson, the Porterbrook Leasing millionaire, who is prepared to back a director buyout group if neither bid secures the 75 per cent majority required for victory.

If there is no outright winner the bidder with the most votes will be put to a third resolution. If there is still no decision, it could re- open the door to Mr Anderson who has already had one pounds 13m bid turned down. "I'm torn between both of them," said a local publican and shareholder Peter Atkin. "But I hope for the club's sake that we get it sorted out one way or another."

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