Sugar offered a way out at Tottenham

Enic bids £24m for most of chairman's stake
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The Independent Online

Sir Alan Sugar has received an offer to buy most of his 40 per cent stake in Tottenham Hotspur, the quoted Premier League football club, from an investment group led by Joe Lewis, the Bahamas-based billionaire.

Sir Alan Sugar has received an offer to buy most of his 40 per cent stake in Tottenham Hotspur, the quoted Premier League football club, from an investment group led by Joe Lewis, the Bahamas-based billionaire.

A sale would end the Amstrad founder's decade of control at Spurs, which has seen him save the north London club from ruin only to fall out with business partners, managers, fans and the City.

Sources close to Enic, the investment group backed by Mr Lewis, say that it is offering around 80p a share for a 29.9 per cent stake in Spurs. Sir Alan, who is currently on holiday, told the Independent on Sunday that he was not in talks about the sale.

The £24m bid is almost exactly the same as the offer Sir Alan first agreed, and then turned down, two years ago when the two parties were in talks. Then, Sir Alan demanded that Enic increase the price it was willing to pay and buy his entire holding - a move that would have involved Enic making a full bid for Spurs.

Enic's chief executive, Daniel Levy, does not want to make a bid as it would spoil his investment strategy of building up a portfolio of interests in European football clubs.

Enic already holds a 25 per cent interest in Glasgow Rangers, which is attempting to float on the stock market, as well as stakes in Vicenza in Italy, Sparta Prague in the Czech Republic and Basle in Switzerland.

However, Enic is keen to have an investment in a leading English club to provide a core for its portfolio. Last year it attempted to buy a stake in Manchester United. It was also in talks with United's Martin Edwards about the purchase of some of the shares he was left with when the deal to sell out to BSkyB fell through. Mr Edwards has since sold most of those shares on the open market and has now retired as chief executive of United.

Enic also attempted to buy Wembley Stadium. However, its £229m offer to purchase Wembley, the company that then owned the stadium, was rejected.

Enic is currently in negotiations to buy Victor Chandler, the offshore betting business which is partially controlled by John Magnier, a long-standing friend of Mr Lewis. The talks have been ongoing for nearly a year and the deal has yet to be concluded.

Speculation in the gaming industry is that the £80m deal may fall apart, and the chances of that will increase if Enic buys into Spurs.

Although Sir Alan would retain a 10 per cent stake in the club if he sold to Enic, he would be under pressure to step down as chairman.

The electronics tycoon has enjoyed a controversial career as boss of the club since he saved it from potential insolvency in 1990.

He fell out with his original business partner, Terry Venables, and ended up in a bitter legal dispute with the football manager, who later became England coach.

Sir Alan has also had a difficult time with team managers, losing the services of Gerry Francis and Christian Gross before signing up former Arsenal boss George Graham.

Fans have been less than impressed with Sir Alan's stewardship of the club, claiming that he lacks ambition. The City is also lukewarm about the club. Its shares have halved in value over the last three years and on Friday stood at 69.75p, valuing the club at £70m.

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