Charlton Athletic are set to be taken over by a Dubai-based investment group which is believed to be owned by the ruling Maktoum family. The deal is worth around £50m with Zabeel Investments, whose interests range from luxury hotels to construction and the media, promising to provide the funding to return the Championship club to the top-flight.
Its executive chairman, Mohammed Al Hashimi, said last night: "We feel now is the right time to make a strategic, long-term investment in Charlton and get them back to the Premier League where they belong. The passion of the fans at Charlton, the heritage of the club and the unique status it enjoys in the community make it an exciting proposition for us."
Zabeel was part of a Dubai consortium, led by the state's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, which attempted to buy Liverpool. There were also, more recently, talks with Newcastle United which broke down over the asking price.
The company was set up two years ago and it is thought to be controlled by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Sheikh Mohammed's son and his heir apparent, which is an indication of the financial muscle it has available to it.
Buying Charlton may appear a strange choice but their location in London and the fact that they own the freehold on their stadium and training ground makes them attractive. Their manager, Alan Pardew, is understood to be aware of the deal and has already been reassured by the club's board – and the prospective new owners – that his job is safe and that he will receive funds in the January transfer window.
Charlton have been looking for a buyer for some time and last year there was interest from another Middle East group while there was also an inquiry from the Nigerian businessmen who have also been interested in Newcastle.
Last night the Charlton board released a statement confirming that an "indicative cash offer" had been received from Zabeel which is "at a level" that will now be formally put to shareholders. It's likely the deal will be accepted with Zabeel already being granted access to Charlton's books as it starts the process of due diligence.
Charlton's chairman Richard Murray, who is thought to own 25 per cent of the shares, said: "The board firmly believes that a successful outcome would be beneficial to shareholders and employees of Charlton, all fans of the Club and the local community."