Members serve ace at Queen's Club

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The Independent Online

The members of Queen's Club, which hosts the Stella Artois tennis tournament, are on advantage point in the auction for the exclusive club, which moves into its final round tomorrow.

Its owner, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), has slapped a £40m price tag on the south-west London club, but the suitors are likely to pitch offers around the £30m mark.

There are thought to be five bidders left in the running. Apart from the members, these include leisure group Next Generation, founded by former British tennis star David Lloyd, and a consortium led by a group of senior City figures. Two property groups are understood to be the other bidders. Rival leisure group Esporta has not made it into the second round after only offering around £25m.

The club's members, who include international financier George Soros and British Land chairman John Ritblat, have set up a "fighting fund" for the bid. They have raised around £20m and have arranged bank loans through their bank, Coutts.

The LTA is planning to draw up a final shortlist, probably of two or three bidders, over the next few weeks. It wants to decide on the winner by the time of its next board meeting at the beginning of February.

The members are understood to be making the highest offer for the club, which comes with a 120-year lease on the site. If they are successful, they could award the contract to operate the site to a leisure group such as Next Generation.

Some of the bidders have warned that membership fees may have to double.

The club, established in 1886, was named after Queen Victoria. As well as 36 tennis courts, it has three squash courts, a gym and hospitality facilities.

One of the conditions of the sale is that the new owners guarantee the future of the Stella Artois tournament, the warm-up to the grass-court Wimbledon championships.

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