An offer of some pounds 7.5m is expected to be presented to City's two major shareholders, the former chairman, Peter Swales, and Stephen Boler. They each own almost a third of City's 750,000 shares. If the Lee offer is accepted by Swales and Boler, a takeover would become a formality - but rejection would prevent the group making another bid for a year under Stock Exchange rules.
Such a delay could open the door to another prospective buyer of the struggling Premiership club. 'A bid is imminent from the Francis Lee consortium and the principal shareholders will examine it closely,' Chris Muir, a City director, said last night.
'Shareholders will be told of the price the consortium are willing to pay. If it is not acceptable, we're back to base one.' Lee's original offer of pounds 2m for 29 per cent of the shares and pounds 6m for new players was rejected at City's annual meeting 10 weeks ago.
Swales and Boler are unlikely to break a pact not to sell their holding without the other's agreement. If either decided to sell, a deal with the brewers, Greenall Whitley, would give Lee control.
Swales remained cautious: 'I have insisted from the start that only offers in the best interests of Manchester City could be considered. That remains a firm policy,' he said. The Lee consortium was silent about the size of its bid yesterday, knowing that it has to be realistic to have any chance of success.