American billionaire closes in on Palace deal

Ross McLean
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Josh Harris is set to undertake due diligence
AMERICAN tycoon Josh Harris is poised to enter a period of due diligence as his proposed takeover of Crystal Palace gathers pace.

A deal in the region of £70m with the Premier League club appears close after progressive talks between billionaire Harris and Palace co-chairman Steve Parish accelerated the chances of an imminent agreement.

Should due diligence be completed, Palace would become the sixth club in England’s top flight to be majority-owned by Americans, following the lead of Premier League rivals Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Sunderland.

Seizing control of a Premier League boardroom has been on Harris’ agenda for some time, with interest in Villa waning following owner Randy Lerner’s £200m valuation while West Brom and Everton have also flickered on his radar.

But Palace’s London location is said to have been a key component in enticing Harris into entering negotiations and pursuing a deal for the Selhurst Park club to such an advanced stage.

The 49-year-old private equity investor, who co-founded Apollo Global Management, is bidding to expand his sports ownership portfolio, which already includes principal American basketball and hockey sides.

Harvard graduate Harris bought National Basketball Association franchise Philadelphia 76s in 2011 and National Hockey League outfit New Jersey Devils, together with their Prudential Center in Newark, alongside business partner David Blitzer in 2013.

Parish and a consortium of wealthy supporters, including Martin Long, Steve Browett and Jeremy Hosking, established the CPFC 2010 consortium four years ago and formulated a deal to save the Eagles from folding.

And while cautious with regard to a takeover being agreed imminently, Parish – who looks set to continue his day-to-day role at the club should the deal be finalised – confirmed there remains an openness to consider the merits of any approach.

“There are always people who want to buy football clubs,” said Parish. “We are talking to a number of people on a number of fronts.

“I’ve always said that if somebody wanted to invest in the club and move it forward quicker than I or we [CPFC 2010] can then we would entertain it. We look at all possibilities out there, and there are many, but people have been quite ahead of themselves on this one.”