English Championship club Derby County has agreed a takeover deal with United Arab Emirates’ businessman Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nahyan, relative of Abu Dhabi's ruling family which controls Manchester City.
Derby County, which plays in the second tier of English football, announced on Friday that it has agreed a deal in principle to sell the club to Derventio Holdings (UK), an entity ultimately controlled by Sheikh Khaled.
The sale of the club by Mel Morris, a local entrepreneur known for his investment the makers of the Candy Crush video game, to the Emirati underlines the changing profile of the owners of English football clubs. No financial details of the deal have been released yet.
The English Football League (EFL), which runs the three divisions below the Premier League, has approved Derventio under its ownership test, Derby said, adding the deal was expected to close “very soon”.
Sheikh Khaled, who chairs the Bin Zayed Group, a Dubai-based conglomerate spanning construction, energy and real estate, previously made offers to buy Premier League champions Liverpool in 2018 but no deal materialised. The following year he failed in an attempt to buy Newcastle United, the football club owned by billionaire retailer Mike Ashley. Khalid is a distant cousin of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the de facto ruler of the UAE. The ruling family has used the club to burnish the Middle Eastern country’s soft power through dominating the world’s favourite sport.
The Derby sale follows other recent sales of English clubs to Middle Eastern tycoons, such as Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris, the co-owner of Aston Villa, and Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, the Saudi prince who owns Sheffield United. In 2011, Qatar Sports Investments acquired France’s Paris Saint-Germain, while Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund bought a 20 per cent stake in French team Paris FC earlier this year. In July, Mike Ashley’s £300 million attempt to sell Newcastle to a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund failed to win approval from the Premier League and raising concerns over the oil-rich kingdom’s record on television piracy.
Author: James Parker