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SBD Global/January 23, 2014/Finance

Premier League's Manchester City Buys 80% Stake In A-League side Melbourne Heart

A-League side Melbourne Heart has been purchased by EPL's Man City.
EPL Man City is the new owner of "struggling" A-League side Melbourne Heart "after executing a dramatic takeover" early Thursday morning Australia time, according to Tom Smithies of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. After several days of talks in Melbourne and Sydney, senior Man City execs "completed the deal which sees them own 80% of Heart, the other 20% to be held by a consortium of businessmen" allied to National Rugby League side Melbourne Storm, including Chair Bart Campbell. Until the last minute, Heart's existing owners, led by Chair Peter Sidwell, "had little idea of City's involvement." However, Football Federation Australia "gave its approval to the takeover" Thursday morning. The sale comes months after Man City "held cursory talks" with A-League Sydney FC. The deal "changes the landscape for both Heart and the A-League," with Man City CEO Ferran Soriano emphasising the investment "is for the long term" after choosing Australia as the UAE-backed club's latest outpost following the establishment of MLS side New York FC. Speaking Wednesday night, Soriano "promised to make no immediate changes at the club" at least for the rest of the season (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 1/23).

MAKING A STATEMENT: In a statement, Soriano said, "We believe the strong sports culture of Melbourne combined with the football and commercial expertise within our consortium will make for a powerful combination both on and off the pitch." Campbell added, "Partnering with City to co-invest in Melbourne Heart will further strengthen the sporting landscape in one of the world’s greatest cities and bring a range of new capabilities to AAMI Park." FFA CEO David Gallop said, "Football has moved into the mainstream of Australian sport and is ideally placed to benefit from the boom in football across Asia." (Man City). In Manchester, David Lynch reported Soriano "has confirmed that no further statements will be made regarding the move in fairness to the players and staff at the club who are currently mid-season" (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 1/22). In Sydney, Ray Gatt reported Heart Chair and shareholder Peter Sidwell said that "the time was right for him and the other shareholders to move on." Sidwell: "The board feels that with the successful establishment and evolution of the Club over the last four years, Melbourne Heart now stands on sound commercial and financial foundations. The Board feels that the next phase of the club's development can be most fully realised with this new investment and the associated benefits that the enthusiasm of the consortium will bring" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/23).

BIG DAY FOR AUSSIE FOOTBALL: In Melbourne, David Hall opined about the "rapid rise" of Man City calling the club's success "a story that defines modern football." After detailing Man City's success on the pitch, Hall wrote of the club's venture with New York FC. Hall: "It's a fascinating step into one of the fastest-growing leagues in the world, and all the obvious financial opportunities the US offers." He added, "Just what Manchester City's deal means for Melbourne Heart remains to be seen but there is no doubt this is one of the biggest things to happen to Australian football in some time. It's been a tough ride for Heart fans of late -- but it looks like those who stuck with the club might just get their reward" (FOX SPORTS, 1/23).
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