Tuesday, April 04, 2006

ManU ends sponsor talks with Asian-backed firm

The Manchester United Football Club has abruptly ended negotiations for shirt sponsorship with Gibraltar-based Mansion, an online gambling firm reportedly owned by one of Indonesian richest men, Putera Sampoerna. According to numerous newspaper reports, Man United's commercial director, Andy Anson, called Mansion COO, David Kinsman, on Sunday evening in London to tell him that the club was continuing discussions with another party but was terminating contact with Mansion.

Kinsman has since told media that Anson had verbally agreed a deal which would net United up to £70 million over the next four years, all of which was in cash and a substantial portion in an up front payment.

"It was indicated to us that we had done a deal and I flew in from China for a meeting with Andy Anson to that effect. It was something of a surprise therefore to be told that United had been negotiating with someone else. During the negotiating process we had no idea this kind of double dealing was going on. Manchester United have not acted as we expected them to," he told The Daily Mail.

"We are very disappointed at the manner in which Manchester United has concluded these contract negotiations and are very surprised that the discussions were terminated at this late stage in what we consider to be an unprofessional manner," he told Matthew Garrahan of the Financial Times and revealed that United had also been talking to Mansion about taking a 20 percent stake in a future Mansion IPO.

"In addition to the cash offer, the deal would have included a revenue share opportunity for the club in a co-branded online gaming product, potentially raising further revenue for both parties in international markets," he added.

Kinsman told The Telegraph he did not once meet with any member of the Glazer family, Man United's new United States-based owners, during the discussions and is mystified at their decision to turn down the deal.

"We dealt with two people during our negotiations - David Gill, the managing director and CEO, and Andy Anson, who is the commercial director of Manchester United," he expanded further to Reuters.

"It was Andy Anson who confirmed to me on Friday night that we had a deal, it was Andy Anson who advised me on Saturday night in writing as to his arrival details in London for this morning and it was Andy Anson who rang me at 5.45 last night to tell me they had gone elsewhere."

"He simply told me that they had decided to give the sponsorship to another company. I asked him [who it was] and he said I would find out later," Kinsman added. "I've been in business for some 35 plus years and I have done some very major business deals - much larger than this. I was quite disappointed the way this deal played out in the end," Kinsman continued. "I think it could have been avoided if there had been a different attitude as to how the deal was carried out on their side."

On a Mansion website, a Fox Sports Network executive vice president described Kinsman as "a marketing guru and a true brand builder." Kinsman joined Mansion (Gibraltar) Ltd as COO in November last year following the resignation of CEO David Dent, and assumed the most senior management role in the company. He previously had a long track record in the gaming industry in Australia, associated in executive management positions with Vidco, Olympic Gaming, Online Gaming Systems and Leisure and Gaming Corporation and as a consultant to gaming operators and suppliers.

A Manchester United spokesman said the club had never promised Mansion exclusivity in its sponsorship negotiations. "We would understand why anybody would be disappointed at not securing the shirt sponsorship deal for Manchester United. We have not and do not enter into periods of exclusive negotiation and every party we have discussed the shirt sponsorship with are aware of that. Our priority is to look for the most appropriate deal for Manchester United. We have been having discussions with Mansion, and we are sorry they feel that way and wish them every success in the future," he said.

FT reported that at least four companies are thought to be continuing talks with United on a shirt sponsorship deal although it is unclear whether an agreement will be struck in time for the start of the next football season. It named Etihad Airways, national airline of the United Arab Emirates, as remaining in talks with United while The Telegraph recalled that another Asian company, Korean electronics giant LG, had claimed last month that they had walked away from a £10 million-a-year deal.

See also: Man U may sign-up £60m shirt sponsor this week (2 Apr) and Asian-backed Mansion tipped to be ManU sponsor (4 Mar)

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