Lee angered by talk of lost City investments

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The Independent Online
Manchester City's chairman, Francis Lee, has rejected claims that the club missed out on a possible pounds 70m infusion of Arab oil money because he would not release enough information on the state of the club's finances.

City, struggling to recover from relegation to the First Division, have been constantly linked with takeover speculation. Reports suggested that two oil-rich princes were said to be ready to pump up to pounds 70m into the club but that their financial advisors broke off discussions, accusing Lee of failing to produce the necessary information.

Lee insists he is not at fault. "It's important when you negotiate with someone on these matters that you know who is ultimately going to take the interest in the club and I have never been assured of that," he said.

"When I find out a name, or I am given one, I will release information. We think we are handling everything in the correct way and we do it through our lawyers."

Lee said that over the past 18 months or so he had talks with half a dozen people who wanted to invest in the club. Having signed letters of confidentiality, none of them had come back with firm offers. Neither had they said what type of money they were talking of investing in the club.

"Unfortunately, one of these people who has signed a confidentiality letter keeps spouting off and he's completely out of order. If anyone has anything which is beneficial to Manchester City I will listen," Lee said.

"It is normal procedure to exchange letters of confidentiality when you speak to people but in this case, and one other case, people have broken that confidence.

"It's really disappointing but if anyone wants to invest in the club I will certainly be willing to listen providing it's done in the proper manner.

"One thing that does rile me is when I read that we are pounds 20m in debt and nearly bankrupt. That is a load of rubbish."

Dave Bassett, the manager of Crystal Palace, said yesterday he had not been approached by City about the vacant manager's job. City, still searching for a replacement for Alan Ball, are reported to have turned their attention to Bassett after Sheffield United refused permission for them to approach Howard Kendall.

Bassett, Kendall's predecessor at Bramall Lane, said: "No one from Manchester City has spoken to me about the job there. All I've heard is the hype. People are saying I'm on their short list but I'm not interested in that because it's all hypothetical.

"It's a case of crossing bridges as they arise. If Manchester City speak to me, I've got something to talk about."