Thaksin: We will not sweeten deal to beat Morgan

BANGKOK: Thailand's billionaire prime minister refused to enter a bidding war yesterday with an English businessman for a major stake in Liverpool football club. 

Thaksin Shinawatra, a telecoms tycoon before he turned to politics, said he would not sweeten his US$100 million offer for 30% of the club, which had appeared a done deal before local construction magnate Steve Morgan made a rival bid. 

“Somebody may want to bid higher and expect us to raise the ante. We will not do that,” Thaksin told reporters. “We still have a 50:50 chance.” 

Morgan, a Liverpudlian, had responded to Thaksin's overtures to the English Premier League club with a letter asking for talks about a possible £73 million-pound (US$128.2 million) cash injection. 

It was the second time this season that Morgan, who used to own building company Redrow, had offered to invest in the Anfield club, who are desperate to buy new players to keep in touch with big-spending Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea. 

The club, founded in 1892, also need new investment to help fund a move to a bigger stadium at Stanley Park in time for the 2008 season. 

Despite Thaksin's confidence that a final deal would be clinched by the weekend, details of his plans remain sketchy, with some government sources suggesting public money, rather than the premier's vast personal fortune, would be used. 

His spokesman said Thailand would first buy the stake before deciding whether the money came from “the people or from the government or the private sector”. 

However, Thaksin appeared to row back on any possible public funding amid outrage in the press at the idea of using taxpayers' cash for what critics say is merely the latest fad for businessmen with a few billion to spare. 

“I can assure you it will be the money of people willing to buy, not public tax money,” he said. 

“You can rest assured that we will not impose our will on anybody. Those who want to buy can buy; those who don't want to, don't have to.” 

The purchase is likely to go down well with the average voter in Thailand, where the Reds were firm favourites with the football-loving public until the meteoric rise of Manchester United in the 1990s. – Reuters  

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