Secretive Russian to take over Everton FC

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The Independent Online

A secretive Russian tycoon is poised to follow in the footsteps of Chelsea's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich today by taking control of Everton FC in a £20m take-over deal.

A secretive Russian tycoon is poised to follow in the footsteps of Chelsea's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich today by taking control of Everton FC in a £20m take-over deal.

The buyout would see an associate of Boris Zingarevich secure a 40 per cent controlling share in one of the best-supported clubs in the country.

The deal, which could transform Everton's standing in the Premiership, will be put to the club's board of directors today.

Bill Kenwright, Everton's chairman, who is expected to remain at the club if the deal goes through, announced last weekend that he was confident he had found a financial backer for Everton, which has debts of between £30m and £40m.

The Sunday Times named the man behind the deal as Mr Zingarevich, who made his money from paper mills.

Officially, the club said: "Reports naming Boris Zingarevich as the proposed principal new investor in Everton Football Club are incorrect." The buyer is understood to be closely linked with him.

Everton are currently one of the favourites to be relegated, but fans hope the arrival of the Russian and his fortune will signal a return to the glory days at Goodison Park.

Chelsea's fortunes have been transformed since the Russian oil tycoon Mr Abramovich took over the club last season. Worth about £7.5bn, Mr Abramovich has spent £200m assembling a squad of international stars who have a realistic chance of winning the Premiership.

An announcement from Everton is expected today. Ian Ross, the head of public affairs at Goodison Park, said yesterday: "With regard to press speculation about proposed investment, Everton Football Club wishes to announce it will hold a board meeting on Monday, after which further details will be given."

Bobby Evans, chairman of the Everton supporters' club, Bluewatch, said: "This is fantastic news for the club and all the fans. Hopefully we will now have some money to spend to strengthen the squad and can have a bit of optimism about the future for the first time in years."

If the deal goes smoothly, the new owner is likely to add to his investment of £20m, which would help the club to keep the England star Wayne Rooney, and allow David Moyes, the manager, to strengthen his squad.

The former Everton star Trevor Steven said the deal could see Everton return to the pinnacle of English football.

"If it has the blessing of the board then this is very good," said the former midfielder, who won domestic and European honours with Everton during the 1980s.

"We have not been able to compete at the very top for some time now and have been in the papers for all the wrong reasons. But with a character like this behind us we could see Everton back where it belongs."

Bill Gerrard, professor of sports management at Leeds University, urged supporters not to get carried away. He said: "There needs to be a coherent strategic plan in place to ensure the money is invested wisely and the squad is improved so that the club can begin to challenge for honours on the pitch again."

Mr Zingarevich co-founded Russia's largest pulp and paper business with annual revenues reportedly approaching $1bn. The family fortune is estimated to be about £362m.

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