London (AFP) – The billionaire former chairman of US entertainment giant the Walt Disney Corporation is in talks to buy English fourth-tier club Portsmouth, the south coast side has confirmed.
Following a report in The News, Portsmouth’s local newspaper, that American media mogul Michael Eisner was looking to complete a takeover, the Portsmouth Supporters Trust, which owns the club, said in a statement issued Wednesday: “Due to the current interest from Mr Eisner the PST are suspending voting rights for all new Members.”
The News said Eisner, 75, was eager to become involved in English football, while the FT said Thursday that talks were at an “advanced stage”.
Portsmouth won the FA Cup as recently as 2008 when they were a Premier League club.
But following their relegation from the lucrative top flight in 2009, they were hit with points penalties for repeatedly falling into administration under a succession of foreign-based owners and this contributed to their falling down the league pyramid with several relegations.
Champions of England in successive seasons in 1948/49 and 1949/50, Portsmouth were on the brink of going out of business before the PST, virtually as a last resort, took over the running of the club and brought it out of administration in 2013, making it one of the few ‘fan-owned’ clubs in English football.
Pompey, as they are nicknamed, are currently third in League Two, a position that will guarantee promotion to third-tier League One if they can retain it in the remaining eight games of the regular season.
Despite playing in League Two, they retain a loyal and passionate fan base, averaging crowds of 16,000 — impressively high for fourth-tier football — at their Fratton Park ground.
Portsmouth chief executive Mark Catlin said any prospective deal would have to be put forward to shareholders.
“Since becoming a community club, we have taken great pride in our honesty and transparency with shareholders and supporters alike, aligned with what has to naturally stay private and confidential in the course of any normal business dealings,” he said in a statement.
Eisner served as both chief executive and chairman during his 21 years at Disney before leaving in 2005 and he also been the president of major Hollywood studio Paramount Pictures.
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