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Irish consortium moves to pole position in Southampton FC takeover
A CONSORTIUM of Irish businessmen has jumped to the head of the queue to buy Saints after an eleventh hour bid, the Daily Echo can reveal.
The group is understood to consist of two people, who have £500,000 ready to put down as a deposit to gain a period of exclusivity.
The Daily Echo understands that has moved them to the top of the list, overtaking the previous frontrunners, the Matt Le Tissier-backed Pinnacle group.
They are thought to have arrived on the scene late last week and are already at a very advanced stage in negotiations.
Their identities are unknown but last year the Daily Echo reported that millionaire Irish cinema tycoon Tom Anderson had been close to making on offer to buy out former chairman Rupert Lowe.
It was said that the deal was brokered by former Everton chairman Paul Gregg and his associate Tom McLoughlin, but it came to nothing.
Anderson runs Ward Anderson, which controls UK movie theatres including the Leicester Square Empire.
Saints administrator Mark Fry also revealed to the Daily Echo last night that he hopes to announce a preferred bidder by the end of tomorrow.
Fry said he had more than one party in the last stages of negotiations and was hoping things would be resolved soon.
He told the Daily Echo: “We have got a number of people at the final stages and we are trying to get them all to get over the line.
“I am hopeful that it will be within the next 48 hours.”
Fry added the administrators were working “exceptionally hard” to secure a deal, which he said must be satisfactory for the main stakeholders.
Although the Irish group now appear to be favourite to gain control of the club, the other interested parties are not out of the equation.
The Pinnacle consortium is still desperately trying to piece together the final bits of the jigsaw for their completed bid.
They are understood to be very close, however, due to the serious late interest from elsewhere, time is fast running out for them.
That may spark them into completing their bid, but the final deadline is thought to be looming.
Pinnacle’s Tony Lynam, who has been managing the bid, said: “We are still at the table and still talking to the administrator.”
The Daily Echo understands Pinnacle are frantically trying to sort things out today, for fear they may lose the club.
The consortium fronted by Stuart Green and Marc Jackson is still hopeful they can gain control of Saints, while there is thought to be serious interest from another mystery party.
There is no guarantee that whoever is chosen as the preferred bidder will ultimately seal a deal to gain control of the club, though.
Although they will have a period of exclusivity, in which no other bids can be accepted, they will still have to tie up all the final legal and financial issues before taking over.
The Echo understands that Fry would not want other parties to walk away after a preferred bidder is chosen, in case a deal subsequently collapses.