Chelsfield to back Irish tycoon's £122m bid for Wentworth

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The Independent Online

The Irish billionaire Sean Quinn's quest for control of Wentworth is expected to receive a boost this week with the backing of the Surrey golf course's biggest shareholder.

Property company Chelsfield owns 60 per cent of Wentworth and is considering Mr Quinn's £122m offer this weekend. Sources close to Mr Quinn are quietly confident that Chelsfield will back it.

Retail entrepreneur Richard Caring had previously tabled a £110m offer for the golf club and leisure complex, and received backing from Chelsfield that it would accept his bid - unless it received an approach that was more than 10 per cent higher.

Mr Quinn's bid exceeds the 10 per cent threshold and he is now hopeful of a similar undertaking from Chelsfield.

The remaining 40 per cent of Wentworth is owned by 26 other shareholders, including the Savoy Group, which was recently acquired by Irish property group Quinlan Private, and former newspaper proprietor Eddy Shah.

These "A" shareholders can exercise pre-emption rights granted to club investors that allow them to match any bids accepted by Chelsfield. Mr Shah is understood to have taken up the option and so could bid.

Mr Quinn is one of Ireland's richest men, owning an Irish insurance business that he plans to expand into the UK. He also owns the Hilton hotel in Prague and controls close to 25 per cent of NCB, Ireland's third-largest stockbroking firm.

If Chelsfield does back Mr Quinn's bid, it is expected do so on the basis that the recommendation can be withdrawn if a counter-offer of £135m or more emerges.

The Wentworth complex is due to host the HSBC World Match Play championship next month.