'Local boys made good' hope to rescue Palace by end of month

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The Independent Online

The prospective saviours and owners of Crystal Palace are "high net-worth" individuals but have a "pragmatic" view to club ownership, according to Palace's administrator, Brendan Guilfoyle, who told The Independent yesterday they would not be considering investing in a "risky" sector such as football if they were not committed fans of the club.

Guilfoyle says he hopes to have a sale agreed "by the end of April", and firmly put to bed any notion that the millionaire American rap star, P Diddy – aka Sean Combs, aka Diddy, aka Puff Daddy – would be involved in a takeover. It is understood that Combs, worth around $350m (£235m), heard the name Palace on a trip to London, and thought it sounded glamourous because of Cristal champagne.

"On investigation, I heard from his people that he'd pass on this opportunity [to buy Palace]," Guilfoyle said. "I don't mind that he was linked to the club," he added."If nothing else, it got publicity from here to Australia and meant nobody who might have an interest would miss the fact the club's for sale."

Guilfoyle declined to confirm the identities of the current bidding group – the so-called CPFC 2010 consortium – for confidentiality reasons. But it is understood that the leading figure is Steve Parish, a lifelong Palace fan and the CEO of a London-based design and production company. Parish has been a club sponsor in the past.

"I've found this group of high net-worth individuals but they take a pragmatic view in stepping up to the plate with their proposal to buy Palace," Guilfoyle says. "I'd guess you'd describe them as classic local lads made good. But they want to be sensible in what they're doing. Their plan also involves the stadium [which will need buying in a separate deal from a separate administrator]."

Palace lie 22nd in the Championship and are threatened with relegation to League One after being deducted 10 points for entering administration earlier this year. The club is understood to have around £30m of debt, including about £18m owed or effectively owed to the previous owner, Simon Jordan. Some £11m of that £18m is actually owed to Lloyds Bank but is secured against Jordan's assets, so he is ultimately responsible for it. Another £4.5m is owed to a hedge fund, Agilo, the firm that called in the administrators earlier this season, much to Jordan's fury.

"We've become used to a scenario in football where clubs go into administration and almost inevitably survive but times are really hard and I don't think all these troubled clubs will necessarily keep on surviving," Guilfoyle said.

"Palace are fortunate in that this current interest is from fans; they probably wouldn't consider this as a sensible business venture under normal circumstances. Equally, because they're fans, relegation isn't such an issue [because they would be involved for the long term]."

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