Gulf government are looking for easy marketing opportunities by buying into UK football clubs, but the business model “does not make sense” for private firms as they do not offer enough return on investment, said leading Kuwait business leader Bader Nasser Al-Kharafi, whose family was previously linked to rumoured bids for Liverpool and Newcastle.
“It was in the past but now we are a business and if there is a good deal we can benefit from [we will invest],” Al Kharafi said when asked if his family business, the Kharafi Group, was still interested in investing in European football clubs.
Several Gulf states and entities have invested in European clubs, from Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan’s ownership of Manchester City to Qatar’s investment in French club Paris Saint Germaine.
“They are the government investing, it is not the private sector. Kharafi Group is a private company we have to look at the return. The government look at publicity as they want to be put on the map and it is a marketing thing and it works for them. It is paying for marketing,” Al Kharafi said, adding that “the financial model does not make sense.”
Nasser Al Kharafi, the late chairman of the Kharafi Group who died in Cairo in April 2011, walked away from a £600m ($915m) purchase of the Liverpool football club in 2008, and again in 2009, after negotiations failed to lower the price.
It was later reported that Al Kharafi had also been close to a £300m takeover bid of Newcastle United football club, a deal that also fell through.
The family business has an annual turnover exceeding $5bn and operations in 25 countries around the world, from Senegal and Botswana to Kazakhstan and The Maldives, and has more than 120,000 employees.
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