KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes is close to buying a 51% controlling stake in English Premier League football club Queens Park Rangers (QPR), according to several reports Wednesday.
He is reported to be on the verge of buying Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone's controlling stake in QPR for about US$196mil (RM583mil). The deal is likely to be announced soon, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
Ecclestone reportedly owns 66% of the club, with Indian steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, the other major shareholder, owning 33%. Former Renault Formula 1 team boss Flavio Briatore owns 1%.
QPR has been majority-owned by Ecclestone for the last five years and he has wanted to sell for some time.
Fernandes, who also owns the Team Lotus Formula 1 outfit, added fuel to the takeover speculation on Saturday when he watched the team's 4-0 defeat to Bolton from the directors' box at Loftus Road.
If the deal goes through, Fernandes would be the latest in a string of Asian businessmen to invest in English soccer clubs. Previously, exiled Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra bought Manchester City and Hong Kong's Carson Yeung bought Birmingham City.
Citing people with knowledge of the transaction, another daily, the Financial Times, also reported that Fernandes was poised to take majority control of QPR as early as Monday, but cautioned the deal had not been sealed and could be delayed or even collapse as the parties sought to reach an agreement on the final details.
Fernandes, a West Ham fan, has several times tried and failed to buy West Ham United, the biggest soccer club in east London. - Bernama