City cash may see Town as poor relations

NORWICH City fans will consider they have trumped Ipswich Town after insurance magnet Peter Cullum said he has £20million to invest into the club.

Elvin King

NORWICH City fans will consider they have trumped Ipswich Town after insurance magnet Peter Cullum said he has £20million to invest into the club.

However, the Canaries have said it would he would need to come up with £56m if he wants to buy into the club and the saga is set to rumble on, although City fans are urging their board to come to some sort of deal.

Cullum is ranked 40th in the Sunday Times Rich List - 357 places above Blues owner Marcus Evans.

While Evans is deemed to be worth £200million, Cullum's wealth is valued at £1.7billion.

Norfolk-born Cullum has a £1.68billion stake in Towergate Partnership, Europe's largest independently owned insurance organisation, which he founded in 1997.

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Cullum and other Towergate directors made about £100m earlier this year through the sale of preference shares to American hedge fund Och-Ziff hours ahead of changes to capital gains tax rules, saving about £8m in tax.

He has had discussions with a private equity group about selling a 25% stake for about £850m, which values Towergate at £3.4 billion.

Evans, 44, is ranked at joint 397th accumulated through what is described as 'business services' and centre around a number of enterprises including conference organising.

His Bermuda-based Marcus Evans Group runs business events and training and its revenues were put at £175m in 2006.

Cullum played for the Norwich youth team but abandoned dreams of a footballing career after coming off second best in a tussle with Charlie George when playing against Arsenal Youth.

Towergate (which insures many hospices) has given away about £500,000 charitably, with the hospice movement again the principal beneficiary.

While Cullum has no wish to take any of the gloss away from Norwich figurehead Delia Smith he is still prepared to be more up front than the reclusive Evans.

Evans, who is grooming down the off-field expenditure at Portman Road and the academy set-up at Playford Road to run more in line with his other business interests, pledged £12million direct to manager Jim Magilton's 2007/08 budget and has taken onboard the club's original debt valued at around £40million.

He has also agreed a shirt sponsorship deal to add more cash to help Magilton take the club into the Premier League - with the promise of more funds to improve the managers' squad this summer.

Evans, in fact, is not the wealthiest man connected with Town as associate director shareholder Michael Spencer is 62nd in the Sunday Times Rich List and reported to be worth £1.15billion.

The 52-year-old financier runs Icap (Intercapital), the world's biggest inter-dealer broker, founded in 1986. Born in Malaysia, he set up Icap's charity day, which has raised £42m for good causes in 15 years.

Spencer is a keen Town fan and has a house in Suffolk, but it is not anticipated that his financial outlay to the club will ever match that of Evans.

SHOULD Peter Cullum come on board, Norwich manager Glenn Roeder will have the wherewithal to match what Magilton will have in his back pocket.

Cullum made joint City majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones an informal offer in October last year, when City were five points adrift at the foot of the Coca-Cola Championship.

And, despite talks breaking down, Cullum said the offer still stands - and revealed a vision for City's future that is sure to have Canary fans contemplating a return to the top-flight.

He wants to become majority shareholder, supported by Delia and her husband Wynn Jones but he is not interested in taking a place on the board.

He said: “I don't believe I can ever make money out of a football club. This is about passion and love for the club. But I'm not prepared to put that sort of money into the club without having control. I don't mean becoming Darth Vader and toasting everybody, though.

“The £20m is an investment that is very unlikely to yield a good return other than emotional, and it's something I've always wanted to do.

“I went to see Norwich play Ipswich at Carrow Road last year. Ipswich were 2-0 up, but 20,000 people started to lift the home team. I felt very emotional. Norwich almost won the game. I thought 'what a tremendous support base'.”