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The Ownership Showdown

News of Reading's sale has been spreading fast ever since Charles Watts and Jonny Fordham revealed on twitter that the club were in talks with two interested parties. It has since emerged that the club is up for a price of £1 (plus debts - which reportedly stand at £38m), a fact that news outlets have been quick to exploit for shallow headlines. According to Fordham, Zingaravich resigned from the board, and handed his shares back in January which would explain the frantic pleas from Madejski for someone to buy us.

Indian businessman Mohit Burman, who sits on the board of Dabur India Ltd., gave a huge sign of intent when offering to help pay the club's upcoming HMRC tax bill of around £3.5m if they entered into exclusive talks with him. He owns 46% of the King's XI Punjab - a team who have finally turned turned profitable three years after initial estimates. Slightly worryingly in 2010 there was a warrant for his arrest after "failing to appear [at] a hearing on not filing [KXIP's] balance sheets and annual returns." Most of his worth seems to come from his father, which will lead to Alarm bells about another Zingaravich, but he appears to have no problem spending it; especially when it comes to sports, his brother also bought into Team Lotus, and the family own a hockey team. Having somebody already versed in running a sports team could only be beneficial, especially one as successful as KXIP. In an interview he talked about his passion for all sports, and having somebody who's legitimately interested in the game rather than just making money out of it is a plus. Allegedly he's not the preferred bidder for whatever reason, but it will be interesting to see whether his offer to at least partly cover the tax bill changes that, or alternatively tips Sagi's hand.

The counter, and favoured offer is from Teddy Sagi. Worth over $2bn he's made his money through his own FTSE 250 company, Playtech - who provide the software for all forms of online gambling. The Daily Mail aren't particularly fond of him, and he's been convicted for fraud and bribery back in his native Israel, which could make the Fit and Proper test interesting, even if it was almost 20 years ago. His offer also includes the plans to build a hotel, and shopping centre on the Madejski car park as well as flats on the club's Hogwood training ground. In theory the extra foot traffic at the Madejski could help increase merchandise, and make us a more appealing prospect to sponsors, among other things, the only problem with the plan is logistics. The Madejski road system around the stadium is notoriously dire, and the disruption that the construction could cause might be too much to take on in the immediate future. Then there's the fact that it would be built upon the tip that underlies the ground and it's clear that some serious planning that would be needed.

The two bids are incredibly different, Burman looks to be focused on the sports while Sagi seems to have a rounded proposal that stretches beyond football. It's difficult to tell how interested Sagi is when it comes to the team, but seeing as he's the preferred bidder it would seem that he's given enough assurance to the board that he's the right man to see Reading through. Seeing as both parties are reportedly offering £1 + debts, ignoring Burman's additional offer, it would seem like what's best for the football club should be the main talking point. Personally I'd rather have the experience of Burman, who would additionally install his own board at the club which may bring in a fresh wave of ideas, over Sagi. The latter would allegedly retain the services of those already sitting.

The main point though would be that whoever came in would respect the history of the club, and not try to over-exploit it for a return, as we've seen so many owners do in the past few years. Both are enticing prospects financially, and the club is incredibly lucky to be in the position to pick between them. Hopefully they'll choose correctly.


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