Sunderland chairman bids to take club private for £2.65m

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The Independent Online

Just five years after Sunderland football club reached a value of £130m, the club's chairman Bob Murray announced a takeover bid for the company yesterday, valuing it at only £2.65m.

Just five years after Sunderland football club reached a value of £130m, the club's chairman Bob Murray announced a takeover bid for the company yesterday, valuing it at only £2.65m.

Mr Murray also announced he had agreed to buy the 4.75 per cent stake in Sunderland currently owned by British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) as part of his bid.

The deal reflects the rapid demise of football finances outside the elite of Premiership clubs led by Manchester United and Chelsea. When BSkyB took a 5 per cent stake in Sunderland for £6.5m in December 1999, the club was riding high, occupying fourth place in the Premiership.

Since then Sunderland has suffered relegation and huge losses leading to financial instability, which Mr Murray said his bid will help alleviate. Trading in Sunderland shares on the London Stock Exchange ceased last August.

BSkyB has written down the value of its various football club investments by £90m over the past few years and continues to hold just one meaningful stake - a 9.9 per cent share in Manchester City.

It has previously owned stakes in Manchester United, which it sold to Cubic Expression, the investment vehicle of John Magnier and JP McManus. It has also sold stakes in Chelsea and Leeds United.

Mr Murray said yesterday he would offer 31p in cash for the 62.37 per cent of Sunderland he does not already own, including the 4.75 per cent owned by BSkyB. His offer values BSkyB's stake at £126,000.

Mr Murray said he was happy for individual Sunderland supporters to retain a share in the club if they wished to carry on attending its annual meetings but said unifying the shareholder base would remove damaging uncertainty.

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