£20m Canaries takeover deal is off

ALL negotiations between Norwich City and billionaire Peter Cullum were sensationally called off last night - ending fans' hopes that the life-long fan would provide a much needed £20m investment into the playing squad.

ALL negotiations between Norwich City and billionaire Peter Cullum were sensationally called off last night - ending fans' hopes that the life-long fan would provide a much needed £20m investment into the playing squad.

A joint statement agreed by the football club and the Norfolk-born businessman brought an end to nearly two weeks of anticipation of the "Cullum cash" after our sister paper the Eastern Daily Press revealed his offer to pump millions into the transfer budget in exchange for a controlling interest. It said talks had been "terminated with immediate effect".

The EDP reveals that majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones yesterday met the 57-year-old, ranked as Britain's 40th richest man, having originally dismissed the approach saying they were yet to receive a "financially viable" offer.

After the announcement, chief executive Neil Doncaster moved to reassure fans over future investment at Carrow Road, saying that the Canaries board continued to "actively seek" a wealthy investor, ideally with Norfolk links.

The statement read: "Despite the very best efforts of both sides, and following a number of amicable discussions, Peter Cullum and the directors of Norwich City Football Club PLC have been unable to agree a mutually acceptable basis upon which they can meet the stated objectives of Peter Cullum, whilst still ensuring compliance with the current legal and contractual obligations of the club to its stakeholders, and delivering a solution that the directors of Norwich City Football Club consider to be in the best interests of the club and its stakeholders.

"Accordingly, all negotiations have been terminated with immediate effect."

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Bosses at Carrow Road had already set out the conditions any investor would need to meet.

On top of any investment in the playing staff, it would be necessary to pay up to £16m to buy out shares, £16m to pay off debts and another £4m to repay loans from the existing directors - a total of at least £56m.

Mr Doncaster said the long-running process of identifying investors would continue.

The club would "always welcome" offers of investment into the playing squad, whether that is in exchange for shares, by way of a loan or as a gift.

However, the EDP understands that all offers must be weighed up against potential legal implications and the long-term interests and stability of the club.

An earlier statement from the club said that when considering any offer: "We look at the individual, we look at what they want to achieve and we look at the financial viability of their proposition."

Mr Cullum claimed he had originally offered £5m in transfer cash in January, when the team was fighting a relegation battle, to be followed by £15m this season.

Last week's insistence that this offer remained on the table had inevitably roused the expectations of fans, craving a return to top flight football.

He insisted it was not a hostile approach and, under his proposed regime, Delia would remain as "a figure head".

Norwich North MP and season ticket holder Ian Gibson was among those to welcome the offer, saying: "Now is the time to talk turkey with someone who says he is prepared to invest at a level that would develop a team worthy of the Premiership.

"We still haven't got a decent team in place for next season and we shouldn't be getting caught up in silly games between individuals."

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