Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed is at the centre of speculation today that he is in talks to sell the club after investing around £200 million in the west London club.
Fayed has been at the helm of the club since he purchased it for £6.25m in 1997, and he loaned them the money as he oversaw a rise from the fourth tier of English football to the Premier League.
But it now seems that the 84-year-old is no longer willing to invest any more money and there are reports that he is in talks to sell, with new owners possibly taking over in time for the new season.
Fulham refused to comment on the speculation, but a number of factors have led to a possible takeover.
The 84-year-old Egyptian converted his £200m worth of loans into equity last year, meaning the club are essentially debt free in an attempt to make the club more attractive to any potential investors, and also to comply with Uefa’s new Financial Fair Play rules.
The club also gained panning permission to redevelop the Riverside Stand to take the maximum capacity up to 30,000, and remove another stumbling block that any new owners might encounter.
Much to the frustration of manager Martin Jol, Fayed has reduced his spending at the club over the last 18 months, having followed last season’s £6m spending with the free acquisitions this summer of Derek Boateng, Fernando Amorebieta and Maarten Stekelenburg.
Although it was reported this morning that he was in talks with an American party, it may not actually be the case, with whoever Fayed may be speaking to having to comply with the Premier League’s rigorous “owners and directors” test.
When a club agree a deal in principle, a prospective buyer has to provide the Premier League evidence of proof of funding, a business plan, a business model and will also have to meet with the Premier League board.
Fayed, who sold Harrods to the Qatari royal family for £1.5billion in 2010, has established Fulham in the top flight since their promotion in 2001/2.
He saw them reach the Europa League Final in 2010, where they lost in extra-time to Atletico Madrid, although the match was a demonstration of how far he had taken the club, having picked them up from the bottom tier of the Football League and taking them to the Premier League in five seasons.