American billionaire bids to take over Pompey
American billionaire Michael Eisner has launched a bid to buy Pompey.
The News can exclusively reveal the former Walt Disney Corporation chairman is in negotiations to take ownership of the League Two club.
The 75-year-old is eager to become involved in an English football club through his Tornante investment group.
But Pompey’s chief executive Mark Catlin insisted any prospective deal would have to be put forward to shareholders.
He said: ‘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.
‘Regarding any potential new investment in the club, we have a robust process in place that if an offer of investment was received – from a credible individual or group – the directors would firstly conduct a period of due diligence on the strength of the offer.
‘They would then formally advise shareholders, including all Trust shareholders, who have their own directors on the main board.
‘All shareholders would be involved from the start of the ensuing process.’
Mr Eisner boasts an impressive CV, which includes 21 years at Disney as both CEO and chairman, before departing in 2005.
He has also served as president at Paramount Pictures, the studio producing films such as Saturday Night Fever, Grease and Raiders of the Lost Ark during his time.
And now the Eisner family are now keen to enter football and have identified Pompey as a club rich in potential with Championship or Premier League aims.
It is understood Mr Eisner is also attracted by the story of how the club was saved by its supporters in April 2013, its community ethos and the successful financial restructuring since emerging from administration.
He last week held negotiations in Portsmouth and, along with his family, attended the 4-0 Fratton Park midweek victory over Grimsby.
However he did not sit in the directors’ box, instead allocated seating elsewhere in the South stand.
Pompey’s board have been scrutinising whether the Tornante investment group represent credible interest, with the club having been stung by a succession of bad owners in the past during its well-publicised demise.
However, ultimately, should their bid be accepted, it will be down to all club shareholders, including the Pompey Supporters’ Trust, to approve any potential deal.
As the largest single shareholder, the Trust’s 48.48-per-cent stake will be crucial in deciding the outcome.
Pompey’s remaining 51.52 per cent shares are distributed among the 16 presidents, who will vote individually.
In September, The News revealed how the club were seeking fresh investment and undergoing a valuation process.
Since community ownership was put in place almost four years ago, there have been a number of parties to enquire about becoming involved with the club, yet none have progressed as far as Mr Eisner.
The club have declined to comment directly on any interest by a specific group.
Pompey have been declared debt free since September 2014 following the early settlement of £7m legacy administration debts and have continued to make annual operating profits.