Football: Blues search for new backer: Birmingham offer 'fantastic privileges' to lure an investor. Phil Shaw reports

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The Independent Online
PSST] Got a million to spare? If so, the publisher of Sport Newspapers and the owners of the Ann Summers sex shop chain would like you to get into bed with them, as it were, in the brave blue world of Birmingham City.

Last year David Sullivan, who made his fortune from papers full of large breasts and tall stories, persuaded Ralph and David Gold, the brothers who brought sex aids to the High Street, to join him on the Birmingham board. Now they are appealing for others to help in the rebirth of the Blues.

One might have expected the search to be conducted in The Daily Sport among the advertisements for sleazy phone lines. Not a bit of it: Birmingham may be in the red, but yesterday they were also in the pink - the Financial Times, that is, rather than the Saturday night Sports Argus.

The advert targeted the 'wealthy individual' who might care to join the board of 'one of the biggest football clubs in the country'. Before the reader had time to check on Blues' position relative to Manchester United et al - they are, in fact, ninth in the Second Division - the seductive prospect of 'fantastic privileges' was dangled before the eyes.

Interested parties can discover the full extent of the benefits by ringing Karren Brady, the club's managing director. The Essex-based Sullivan, however, was more concerned with what investors could put in. 'A pounds 200,000 gift would get you on the board,' he said, 'or pounds 1m interest-free over five years.'

Since buying Birmingham 18 months ago, he has ploughed pounds 5.5m into rebuilding one of the most unwelcoming grounds in England and put up pounds 3.3m for new players. The club recently reported a rare operating profit, of pounds 178,000, but owe pounds 4m to the parent company owned by Sullivan and the Golds.

'Football's an expensive game,' Sullivan added. 'No Birmingham people have come forward, so we're throwing down the gauntlet - we always said we couldn't do this alone. We've got enough to finish off what we have to do, but you can't keep digging up a million here and there to buy players.'

What credentials are the Blues brothers looking for? 'Lots of money. . . plus energy and commitment.'

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