x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Charlton Athletic bid dropped

The Dubai-based firm Zabeel Investments pulls out of talks to buy the English football club, blaming the economic climate and questions surrounding foreign ownership.

Martin Cranie of Charlton battles with Nicky Maynard of Bristol City during the Coca Cola Championship match between Charlton Athletic and Bristol City at The Valley.
Martin Cranie of Charlton battles with Nicky Maynard of Bristol City during the Coca Cola Championship match between Charlton Athletic and Bristol City at The Valley.

Dubai's Zabeel Investments has pulled out of its offer to buy second-tier English football club Charlton Athletic FC due to a combination of the "worsening economic climate" and the "current debate surrounding foreign ownership of football clubs" it said in a statement early this afternoon. Instead it said it would focus on "domestic opportunities" in Dubai that "complement the current Zabeel Investments portfolio", the statement added. Only 12 days ago, the Charlton Athletic Football Club confirmed it had received "an indicative cash offer" to buy the club from Zabeel Investments, a Dubai-based investment company that had previously failed to buy Liverpool FC, for an undisclosed fee. On Oct 10, the south London club confirmed in a statement that it would enter into a period of due diligence with Zabeel stating "should the offer be made formally to shareholders, the board would recommend shareholders to accept it." However, less than two weeks later the Dubai company dropped its bid. The credit crunch and the possibility of a global recession is rapidly taking its toll on companies in the Gulf and across the world. Two days before Zabeel's initial bid for Charlton UK Football Association chairman Lord Triesman warned that English football had amassed debts of around £3 billion (Dh17.8bn) at all levels of the game adding that a top club "could fold" in the current economic climate.

Zabeel Investments has been looking for an opportunity to invest in an English club for some time. Last year it pulled out of talks to buy the Premier League team Liverpool FC, and last month pulled out of talks to buy Newcastle FC when its current owner, Mike Ashley, was in the emirate trying to sell the club. Recent media reports suggested that Zabeel could drop its interest in Charlton and reignite its interest in the Merseyside club due to Liverpool FC being reportedly put up for sale by current US owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett. The American duo have reportedly hired Merrill Lynch to find a buyer.

However, Zabeel quickly denied the reports and today went as far as saying it has "no current intention" to acquire "any English club for the foreseeable future" therefore killing off any future rumours it could purchase a financially distressed English club. A spokesman for Zabeel Investments said: "Zabeel Investments has the highest regard for both the supporters of Charlton and the way in which Charlton is managed and wishes the team every success in their quest for promotion this season and moving forward."

jbennett@thenational.ae