Scardino recruited as key player in Forest bid

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The Independent Online
Marjorie Scardino, the US businesswoman who takes over as chief executive of the Pearson media group this week, has emerged as an investor and key player in a consortium which will make a last-minute bid for Nottingham Forest football club today.

Mrs Scardino and her husband Albert have been recruited by the consortium whose main four members are Trocadero property developer Nigel Wray, former Tottenham Hotspur chairman Irving Scholar, Nottingham businessman Phil Soar and Julian Markham, chairman of property group Glengate Holdings.

The consortium will present an offer document to Forest chairman Irving Korn at noon today. It will distribute the document to the club's 209 shareholders ahead of this evening's extraordinary meeting to vote on a rival pounds 13m takeover proposal led by Porterbrook Leasing chief Sandy Anderson.

Forest shareholders are set to block the Anderson bid, with the shareholders' leader Peter Blackburn saying he was "very confident" that Anderson would not obtain the 75 per cent of the vote needed to gain control.

The Arizona-born Mrs Scardino and her husband are involved in a personal capacity rather than through Pearson and are assisting the Wray consortium in the recruitment of other US investors.

But the Scardinos' involvement appears to re-open the possibility of Pearson taking a direct investment in football just weeks after the group's previous management rejected a similar proposal from Greg Dyke, head of Pearson Television, which includes Thames Television. He had suggested the group take a stake in a top club after Pearson Television had examined possible football investments during the summer.

Mrs Scardino's obvious footballing interest - she is also a keen Manchester United supporter - appears to pave the way for a fresh assault by Pearson on the lucrative football sector.

Greg Dyke's view is that top football clubs represent a lucrative investment opportunity as they own the rights to televised games.

The Nigel Wray-Irving Scholar consortium has declined to name the exact price it is offering for Forest, which currently lies second from bottom of the Premiership.

However, it was thought that the offer would involve an immediate cash injection of pounds 10m with a further pounds 20m to be raised through a stock market flotation.

The group says it has left its renewed takeover approach to the last minute to prevent any disruption from other interested parties.

However, the Wray group faces fresh competition from Grant Bovey, a video entrepreneur who has re-entered the race after withdrawing his initial offer. He is promising pounds 13.5m for new players and says shareholders will receive formal details in the next fortnight.