x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Davidson refuses to pull the plug

Real Mallorca say that Paul Davidson's takeover deal is dead in the water, yet the tycoon claims he is committed to buying the club.

Supporters of Spain's Real Mallorca will be hoping for a brighter 2009. The first half of last year wasn't so bad for the Primera Liga club who finished impressively in seventh place by beating Barcelona 3-2 with a last-minute winner in the Nou Camp. Striker Daniel Guiza was the league's top scorer and all looked well for the islanders. Problems started when the former chairman Vicent Grande put his 93 per cent stake in the club up for sale after his real estate company filed for insolvency in June when the bubble burst in Spain's property market.

The asking price was thought to be around ?40 million (Dh205.2m). Nobody came forward. Not an islander, as the fans would have preferred, nor a Spaniard. Then two separate bids were placed by English businessmen, both aiming to become the first overseas owners of a major Spanish club. The first was from Freddy Shepherd, the outspoken former Newcastle chairman who spends most of his time on the Mediterranean island.

He was pipped by Paul "The Plumber" Davidson, a blunt and garishly dressed figure who offered ?38m and talked about leaving England to live in Spain. There was little hostility towards Davidson. Outsiders, after all, have made Mallorca rich. The traditionally conservative locals have long been used to seeing British and Germans flock to their sun-kissed island. Tourism has brought great wealth and Mallorca's capital, Palma, is one of Spain's richest cities.

Though questions were asked about his motives, Davidson was given the benefit of the doubt as he aired his ideas for the club. A colourful character with a chequered business record, Davidson claimed to be a Manchester United and Macclesfield Town supporter. Steve McManaman, who played for Liverpool and Real Madrid, gave him advice on living in Spain. Unlike many of his peers, Davidson did not shy away from delicate subjects such as profit.

"I am a businessman first and foremost and this was a fantastic business opportunity," he said, adding that he wanted to advertise his pipe-fitting company on the club's shirts. He also said he planned to open a "great big boozer near the ground" to tempt the many British expatriates to watch the team. Doubts started to creep in as the deal floundered. It finally fell through in November after Mallorca alleged that Davidson had not met payments agreed in the contract. Legal action against him has been considered by the club.

By that time, the prolific Guiza had left as uncertainty over ownership affected results. Mallorca currently sit one place above the relegation zone and haven't won a league game since October. Home gates are down 10,000 to a 12,000 average. The club say that the Davidson deal is dead in the water, yet the tycoon claims he is committed to buying the club. "Hopefully the deal will go through by January or February," says Davidson.

"When it came to complete the deal two months ago I found out there was a charitable foundation that owns 100 per cent of the training ground and 40 per cent of the old stadium - that complicated matters." Shepherd is again in talks about buying the club. "Shepherd is the only party formally interested," says Mallorca spokesman Hector Romero. Fans are tired of the situation and will be hoping for a resolution soon. "We're sick of reading about business," says one fan, Esteban Riera. "Mallorca should not be the play thing of a rich man who cannot make up his mind. We just want to watch our team and not worry that it won't be around next month."

amitten@thenational.ae