Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson could be adding pub ownership to his list of business interests if press reports concerning a property fund he is involved with prove correct.
The Sunday Times has reported that Alternative Asset Investment Management (AAIM), which numbers Ferguson and music industry mogul Simon Cowell amongst its backers, is said to be in exclusive talks to buy nearly 300 pubs from Marston's which the Midlands brewer deems surplus to requirements.
The price for the 279 pubs is said to be in the region of £80m, and an announcement is expected within weeks. PricewaterhouseCoopers is handling the sale for Marston's.
The paper reports that the deal, if it were to go ahead, would be the first in a series of transactions designed to build up a 1,500-strong pub empire for AAIM.
Colin Rowlinson, a former finance director of Yates's, is said to have been hired by the property group, which is said to have been in talks with Marston's for several weeks.
The Marston's pub sale has been a poorly guarded secret for weeks, and the brewer refused to comment on the situation.