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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 7, 2006

Man City chairman confirms investment talks

Manchester City chairman John Wardle has confirmed he would be willing to stand aside should negotiations over a £75million takeover reach a positive conclusion.

Wardle revealed talks with an unnamed party, which could lead to a significant investment in the Eastlands outfit, are at 'an early stage'.

After spending the best part of two years scouring the globe for additional funds, it is welcome news for chief executive Alistair Mackintosh, who has come under fire by some sections of the City support for failing to secure a much-needed cash injection.

Mackintosh is aware that Wardle, who together with JD Sports business partner David Makin, has invested £20million of his own cash into City, is not in a position to provide the club with the extra financial push that would propel them into the upper echelons of the Premiership where he believes they belong.

And, although Wardle's association with the Blues has lasted a lifetime, the 62-year-old would be happy to relinquish control if it meant a brighter future for the club.

'Hopefully, something comes of these talks because I would be prepared to pass the baton on if it allowed the club to get back into the honours,' he said.

'The board are aware that we need further investment to maintain our challenge in an increasingly competitive and high-finance Premier League.

'With the new TV deal commencing next season, we are all conscious of the importance of the current campaign. We would welcome the arrival of anyone who could take the club forward with open arms.'

Wardle announced the news to City's annual general meeting this morning.

Although talks with numerous parties have taken place over the last few months, none offered the potential for the kind of significant investment seen recently at Aston Villa and West Ham, clubs of similar size to City.

'A lot of opportunities have been brought to the table, every one of which has been treated on a confidential basis,' revealed Mackintosh.

'But today we felt, as we were sitting in front of our shareholders, it was important to give them an accurate and up-to-date picture of the situation.'

No timescale has been put on the negotiations and, while there is quiet optimism they will eventually bear fruit, it appears there is no urgency for them to succeed.

Having brought the club's external debt down to £35.5million, City's board privately feel the club is progressing well and reject absolutely the suggestion made by Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck that the Stamford Bridge's £21million purchase of Shaun Wright-Phillips rescued the Blues from a dire financial position.

They also refute the claim the non-ownership of their home ground makes them less attractive to investors, arguing that, as their lease on Eastlands lasts 250 years, the only people for whom the land itself would be an issue are those who would want to sell it off anyway.

It is apparent Wardle, who received the unqualified backing of manager Stuart Pearce last week, has reached a point where he feels he cannot take the club any further.

Exasperated to be told by a fan recently that 'it was better in the old days when we were in Division One', Wardle cannot believe, for all City's failure to win a major honour in the past three decades, any genuine supporter would grumble at a current five-year unbroken top-flight stay, the club's longest for more than a decade.