Former Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is preparing a formal £50m offer to buy Derby County.
Ashley has been in advanced talks with Derby’s administrators in the last 48 hours – his bid would be the largest received so far by Derby’s administrators, Quantuma.
The former Newcastle owner’s valuation is believed to be bigger than a bid put forward by General Sports Worldwide, a consortium which includes former Derby chairman Andrew Appleby, former chief executive Sam Rush and Wolves’ former CEO Jez Moxey.
On Christmas Eve, Quantuma announced that a preferred bidder was “imminent”. Sky Sports News has been told this announcement could happen in the next 48 hours.
If successful, Ashley is expected to attempt to purchase Derby’s Pride Park stadium from Derby’s former owner Mel Morris.
Ashley’s Sports Direct company has a large distribution centre based on the Pride Park industrial estate, a stone’s throw from the stadium.
It would be a swift return to football for Ashley, who sold Newcastle United in October in a takeover which saw Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) take a controlling 80-per-cent stake, ending his 14-year ownership.
Derby are rooted to the bottom of the Championship on 11 points after accepting a 21-point deduction.
Rams boss Wayne Rooney has overseen a run of four games unbeaten – including three consecutive wins, before Monday’s 2-2 draw at Reading.
Sky Sports feature writer Adam Bate in October:
‘”I want to have fun and win some trophies,” said Mike Ashley soon after assuming control in 2007. The wait for a major trophy now extends over half a century but it is the fact that his 14 years in charge were the opposite of fun that Newcastle fans will not forgive.
‘Failure, there has been plenty of that. He has presided over two of Newcastle’s six relegations in their 129-year history. Farce, that has been a more frequent visitor to St James’ Park than Ashley himself. But fun has never been a friend to his Newcastle.
‘During his time in charge, the one-time entertainers of English football were reduced to a grim curiosity. The rest of the country gawped in disbelief. Supporters merely endured.
‘Icons were alienated, interlopers overpromoted. Money was spent sporadically and begrudgingly, the investment intermittent and haphazard. Strategy was absent. When it did emerge it was about no more than ticking over. Nobody could mistake it for ambition.
‘Under Ashley, this became a zombie club, an illusion of life.’
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