Indonesian billionaire hoping to become United shirt sponsor

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The Independent Football

An Indonesian billionaire who made his fortune from cigarettes is the owner of a secretive gambling firm that hopes to becomes Manchester United's new shirt sponsor, an industry source has told The Independent.

According to the source, Putera Sampoerna, a 58-year-old tycoon with personal assets estimated at upwards of £1.5bn, hopes that having the name of his Gibraltar-based online company, Mansion, on United's shirts, will aid the company's international growth, especially in the Far East.

"The Far East market is the holy grail in the gambling business," the source said. "There's huge potential there and United are seen as a way in."

United launched a dedicated Chinese-language version of their website last year, and envisage that gambling-related revenues will help to increase the club's profitability in the next few years.

Mansion is among "three of four" companies in negotiations with United, a source at Old Trafford has confirmed. The firm has reportedly tabled a bid worth £15m-a-year to become United's shirt sponsor. The deal, if completed, would be worth £60m over four years to United, smashing the British record currently held by Chelsea, whose deal with Samsung is worth £11m a year.

Other companies who have been in talks with United include Etihad, which is the national airline of the United Arab Emirates and is backed by the UAE's billionaire royal family, and Qatar Airways.

Mansion has declined to reply to any questions about its ownership, its assets, or its negotiations with United, whose search for a shirt sponsor to replace Vodafone is being led by Malcolm Glazer's son, Bryan, and the club's commercial director, Andy Anson. The Glazers, who also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, would be forbidden under NFL rules from any tie-up between the Bucs and a gambling firm, but are "comfortable" that United are a separate entity, and outside NFL rules.