Ambani group denies Reds bid

NEW DELHI: India's wealthiest man, Mukesh Ambani today denied a British newspaper report that he was in a race to take over the English Premier League side Liverpool.

But another Indian businessman reportedly in the running for the Merseyside club appeared more circumspect. The Times of London reported that Ambani, the world's seventh-richest man, was one of two tycoons from the subcontinent competing to purchase a stake in Liverpool. The paper said Ambani's Reliance Industries and Sahara Group chairman Subrata Roy had each tendered similar bids to pay off Liverpool's $370 million debts in return for a 51 percent stake in the club.

"There is no truth to the report. We deny it completely," Reliance spokeswoman Sudeep Purkayastha said. Ambani is worth $19.5 billion from his investment in Reliance Industries, a petrochemicals giant, according to Forbes business magazine.

In 2008, Ambani created the Mumbai Indians, one of the eight teams in cricket's Indian Premier League (IPL). The newspaper said Roy's interest in Liverpool appeared "more serious". His Sahara conglomerate said it could neither confirm nor deny that a bid was in the offing.

"We are presently not in a position to comment," said Sahara spokesman Abhijit Sarkar. Sahara was linked with shirt sponsorship of Manchester United last February, but the deal fell through. The Times said Liverpool chief executive Christian Purslow had denied knowledge of either bid, but reported that approaches began as early as November and that some preliminary talks had taken place. Pressure has been mounting on Liverpool's feuding owners, US businessmen Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr, to cut a deal to sell the Anfield club.

The Times quoted an unnamed source as saying that Liverpool's banker, the state-backed Royal Bank of Scotland, is stipulating that the pair must pay off 100 million pounds of debt and inject tens of millions of pounds into the club.

The paper identified a number of other potential bidders, including a Saudi Arabian consortium and a US-based buyer, who is prepared to pay the £100 million in exchange for 40 per cent of the club. But it quoted a source close to Hicks and Gillett as saying the duo would reject any bid that left them with less than 50 per cent of the club's shares, unless it involved either of them selling out entirely.