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Emily D. Swoboda
 

T'd Off: Mansion Withdraws from Man U Negotiations

4 April 2006

What could have proved to be a historical deal for the World Football Organization was abruptly terminated over the weekend when the Manchester United football club pulled out of a multi-million-pound t-shirt sponsorship deal with online poker provider Mansion.

United has been seeking a sponsor since last fall when current sponsor, U.K. telecommunications company Vodafone, announced it would end its four-year sponsorship contract two years early at the end of this season. United began talks with Mansion late last year over a £70 million sponsorship deal; it would have been the largest deal in the history of the WFO.

But after learning that the football club was still entertaining offers from other companies, Mansion CEO David Kinsman became furious and accused the organization of "double dealing."

Kinsman said he cut short meetings in the Far East Friday, at the request of United commercial director Andy Anson, to fly to London for what he believed were final negotiations that would also have given United a share of the profits in an online venture between the two parties and the right to buy up to 20 percent of Mansion should the company decide to go public.

Kinsman said he was assured on Saturday that there were no problems, only to receive a call on Sunday from Anson informing him that United decided not to make the deal.

"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," Kinsman said Monday. "It was something of a surprise, therefore, to be told last night that United had been negotiating with someone else."

Mansion has since launched a media attack on United, accusing the team of using dirty business practices. Kinsman said his company was never aware that United was also negotiating with other potential sponsors.

But United tells a different story.

"Our public line since the start of the process in November has always been: 'We are talking to a number of companies and are confident of securing a more lucrative deal than the one we currently have,'" Philip Townsend, United's director of communications, explained. "We have certainly not taken a different view in private."

Media reports have backed Townsend's declaration. According to several publications, a handful of other companies--including Korean mobile phone company LG Electronics and two different Middle East airlines, Etihad and Qatar--have had their hats in the ring.

With these reports, however, comes news that Mansion is not the only company to question the club's methods of negotiation. LG in March bailed out in the final stage of negotiations for a £40 million, four-year deal because United, the company said, was using the media to play potential sponsors off each other to raise the bidding price.

Townsend did not comment on the LG situation.

Kinsman says Mansion will pursue other sponsorship opportunities with Premier League clubs, but it will proceed with caution.

"It is not a simple case of putting your name on a club shirt," he said. "But I can tell you the alarm bells will start to ring if we find ourselves in this position again."

United posted the following statement Monday on its Web site in response to Mansion's claims:

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. All the parties were aware that several discussions were going on at the same time and our priority is to look for the most appropriate deal for Manchester United. It's only the third time we have sold this property, and clearly we want to get it right. We have been having discussions with Mansion, and we are sorry they feel that way and wish them every success in the future.

It is now rumored that Insurance giant American International Group will be announced as the club's new shirt sponsors, but neither party is commenting on the supposed deal.

T'd Off: Mansion Withdraws from Man U Negotiations is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda