Ferguson nets fortune with autobiography deal

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The Independent Online
While autobiographies by many MPs and former ministers languish on the shelves, sports stars have become favourite targets for publishers on the look-out for best-sellers. Yesterday Hodder & Stoughton paid a record fee to land the life story of Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, which is likely to be the biggest-selling sports tome of all.

Comparisons with the chase for a top striker were obvious. At least five teams lined up, waving cheque books to attract the star performer and they were all prepared to pay record signing-on fees.

At the end of a month-long war, the team that landed Ferguson was Hodder & Stoughton, publishers with a reputation for signing up the biggest names in sport. It had been a frantic chase.

Among the competitors were rumoured to be Penguin, HarperCollins, Fourth Estate and Transworld publishers. Bidding started at pounds 450,000 - but, in reality, that wouldn't be enough to get Ferguson out of bed.

The final deal, brokered by BDO Stoy Hayward, the accountants acting for Ferguson, is rumoured to be in the region of pounds 1m but neither side was saying publicly yesterday how much it had cost to net the most successful manager working in British football. "I'm afraid I can't tell you that," said Roddy Bloomfield, the editor who secured the deal for Hodder. "I can say it is the most we have ever spent on a sports book. But this is going to be the best-selling sports book ever published. We all knew that this was the big one. Ferguson is the most successful manager alive and United has the biggest following. We're delighted to have signed him."

The autobiography, which will be ghosted by the Sunday Times sportswriter Hugh McIlvanney, will cover Ferguson's footballing career from his days as a player north of the border with Queen's Park, St Johnstone, Dunfermline Athletic, Rangers and Falkirk. It will move on to his managerial career with Aberdeen, where he won several domestic titles, a European Cup Winners Cup and a Supercup, before moving to his success with Manchester United.

In little more than a decade he has steered the club to four championship titles, two league and FA Cup doubles, a European Cup Winners Cup, Rumbelows (League) Cup, one Supercup and four FA Charity Shields.