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Dr Sulaiman al Fahim of Abu Dhabi United Group with Man City's Pairoj Piempongsant.
Dr Sulaiman al Fahim of Abu Dhabi United Group with Man City's Pairoj Piempongsant.

Abu Dhabi group buys Premier League Club

New owners are hopeful that takeover will boost level of the game within the emirate as well as help UAE-based footballers into top arena.

An Abu Dhabi investment group yesterday joined the elite group of English Premier League club owners with the takeover of Manchester City. The privately owned Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment (ADUG), a holding company with extensive investments in the emirate, said it had successfully concluded a deal to buy the club. The deal is estimated to be worth at least 98 million (Dh650m), with a promise of additional financial resources of around 40 million that the new owners hope will make the club a footballing superpower to match Chelsea, Real Madrid and, in particular, local rivals Manchester United, one of the world's richest clubs. An agreement was signed late on Sunday night at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi between the club's owner, the former prime minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, and ADUG officials. Manchester City also confirmed in a statement that a deal with ADUG had been signed and was now subject to final approval from the English Premier League. ADUG will be represented on the board of Manchester City by Dr Sulaiman al Fahim, chief executive officer of Hydra Properties, one of the leading figures within the world of sport and business in the UAE. Last night there were reports the club had already become a major player in the transfer market with Dr Fahim saying he was "hopeful" that Tottenham Hotspur would accept a club record fee of 32 million for the Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov. But, shortly before midnight, Manchester City signed Brazilian forward Robinho from Real Madrid ? for a record transfer of 32.5m. The club manager, Mark Hughes, said he was "absolutely delighted to get the opportunity to work with such an incredible talent like Robinho". "I am really looking forward to introducing him to the rest of the squad, and to the City fans at the earliest opportunity," he added. "This is a real statement of intent as to the ambitions of Manchester City Football Club." Dr Fahim also revealed yesterday that the club had put in offers for David Villa, the Valencia forward, and Mario Gomez of Stuttgart. Dr Fahim is already a familiar face in Abu Dhabi, appearing on advertising billboards for his reality TV series Hydra Executives. Described in some British newspapers yesterday as "the Donald Trump of Abu Dhabi", the 31-year-old businessman is regularly seen in the company of Hollywood stars, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Demi Moore and Charlie Sheen. While no official figures for the purchase of the club have been released, according to sources close to the deal, ADUG paid around Dh120m ($32.67m) more than the Dh530m Mr Shinawatra paid last summer for the club. Another Dh260m is expected to be made available for the purchase of new players. Dr Fahim said: "This is a great opportunity for us to put Abu Dhabi on the world sporting map which is one of our long term aims. "We have only just concluded the deal and I am now in the process of putting together a business plan. We cannot reveal any figures but we paid considerably more than the previous owner. "I am looking at developing the club, branding and marketing it in the Middle East and across the rest of the world. We are looking at new sponsors and developing related business. "We spent two weeks negotiating this deal and now we have to look very carefully at how we can further develop Manchester City both on and off the football pitch." Dr Fahim added that he was hopeful the takeover would help UAE-based footballers play in the Premier League and that the association with Manchester City would help improve the level of the game within the emirate. He added: "We were looking for a deal that can support Abu Dhabi sport worldwide. "This could be an opening for UAE players to take part in the English Premier League." While a number of business groups in the region have been involved in sponsorship deals with Premier League clubs, none until now have actually assumed full ownership. Shinawatra was forced to sell Manchester City after becoming embroiled in legal and political problems in his native Thailand which resulted last month in Dh6.6 billion of his assets being frozen by army generals who deposed him two years ago. He is living in exile in London. The takeover of Manchester City could lead to a number of other Middle Eastern companies attempting takeovers of other Premier League clubs. Leading business groups in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Dubai have been closely monitoring the league, which is worth an estimated 1.5bn per year. Last year, Dubai International Capital narrowly missed out on taking over Liverpool Football Club for 450m while another local business group was reported to be close to taking over Tottenham Hotspur. Despite winning a number of major trophies in the past, Manchester City have long lived in the shadow of Manchester United and the takeover deal concluded by ADUG represents good value for money given the potential of the club to grow and the financial power of the Premier League. Dr Fahim will be hoping to develop the club's brand, particularly within the Middle East and the Far East, where there is huge interest in the Premier League. Dr Fahim is already extensively involved in sport in the UAE through Hydra Properties, which is building a football academy with Italian team Inter Milan. He added: "We are very keen to find ways to provide support and care for various sports activities to help build and develop a new generation of young sports stars, which represents the real wealth and the future of this nation and the cornerstone for building the future of our civilisation." * with PA Sport @email:vchaudhary@thenational.ae

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