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Football entrepreneurs – scoring an own goal?

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Football and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs and football. Do they really go hand-in-hand? Or are football clubs just seen as playthings/investments for (very rich) entrepreneurs?

Anyone who’s been involved in the football industry will tell you how hard it is to make money. So why do entrepreneurs keep investing in this industry?

Football has been filling my inbox for the past week or so as an increasing number of entrepreneurs get linked to football clubs. Entrepreneurs have always been associated with football clubs, often regretting their investments.

We’re always interested in keeping track of the latest deals, so here’s a roundup of the latest speculation and deals:

Forest Green / Dale Vince

Eco-tycoon Dale Vince looks set to take over cash-strapped football club Forest Green. Dale Vince is already said to have met with Forest Green’s executives to discuss a potential takeover.

Forest Green had planned to raise £250,000 by the end of June through a share issue but failed to meet its investment target.

Dale Vince, 48, built his £85m empire on wind power, making him Britain’s wealthiest green entrepreneur. We profiled Dale Vince and his business, Ecotricity, a while back.

Blackburn Rovers / Ahsan Ali Syed

Indian entrepreneur Ahsan Ali Syed has reportedly launched a £300m bid to takeover the former Premier League champions Blackburn Rovers.

36-year-old Ahsan Ali Syed is the head of Bahrain-Swiss based investment firm Western Gulf Advisory, and has singled out Blackburn because of the club’s potential for growth, according to a report in the Telegraph.

Turnaround expert Ahsan Ali Syed now proposes to wipe out Blackburn’s £20m debts and investing heavily in the club to help turn around its fortunes. Ahsan Ali Syed is said to have already approached Blackburn’s advisers, Rothschild, to make the bid.

Ahsan Ali Syed’s other investments include: J&M McCabe Properties in Ireland, horse-racing stables Western Gulf Stables, and several cotton farms in India.

Liverpool FC / Jianhua “Kenny” Huang

Kenny Huang, a Chinese-born entrepreneur, has already made the headlines previously, when he made a $70m bid to buy a stake in an NBA team (the Cleveland Cavaliers, for those who care) last year. Now Kenny Huang is said to be bidding for Liverpool FC.

Kenny Huang’s bid for Liverpool FC – via Rocket Capital, the investment platform he launched with Leslie Alexander, owner of the Houston Rockets – is also backed by a sovereign wealth fund. Kenny Huang’s other investments include China Railway Group, the carmakers Brilliance Auto, the Xinjiang Xinxin Mining Industry Company and the Longrun Tea Group.

Football is a notoriously difficult sector to make money in. Theo Paphitis, of Dragons’ Den fame, and who famously took Millwall out of administration, into the Championship and into the FA Cup Final, told us you need an “asbestos suit” to work in the football industry.   

He told Real Business: “It’s an incredible industry, but I wouldn’t describe it as a ‘business’. Some people lose a lot of cash from it, some people make an incredible amount. But the money generated on its own doesn’t substantially sustain the industry – it will always rely on benefactors.”

I guess that’s where entrepreneurs come in. Would you be passionate enough about a club to inject money into it, with a high risk that you won’t get it back?

Get in touch with any other new football/entrepreneur deals that I’ve missed.

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