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Former Walt Disney chairman and CEO Michael Eisner, who since 2005 has been running The Tornante Company that invests in and acquires media and entertainment companies and has financed such projects as animated Netflix series BoJack Horseman, is in advanced talks to buy the Portsmouth FC soccer club in England, the Financial Times reported.
The report cited people familiar with the situation as saying the 75-year-old was in the final stages of takeover discussions. It said it wasn’t clear if a fan group that is the club’s majority shareholder would OK an acquisition, highlighting that the fan group wanted to retain at least a stake.
Portsmouth plays in England’s League Two, the lowest division of the country’s professional league setup. Tornante, together with Madison Dearborn Partners, owns trading card company Topps, which has licensing deals with U.S. sports leagues and the English Premier League.
The Financial Times said Eisner in the past told it that he had become a fan of English soccer after watching a game of London club Arsenal, lauding “the continuous play without the stops” of American football.
A spokesman for Eisner told the paper about the Portsmouth talks: “We don’t comment on rumors or speculation.”
It quoted the Portsmouth FC as saying: “If we reach a point where such an offer of investment into the club is made, then ultimately it will be for all our shareholders … to decide whether such new investment would be in the club’s best interest.”
Eisner would become the latest international businessman to buy into an English soccer club. Most acquisitions have focused on clubs in the popular Premier League. For example, Los Angeles Rams and Denver Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke owns a majority stake in Arsenal; Boston Red Sox owner John Henry owns Liverpool FC; and the Glazer family owns Manchester United.
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