London:From Prime Minister of Thailand to chairman of Manchester City, Thaksin Shinawatra is the latest high-profile figure in the seemingly inexorable worldwide takeover of English soccer.
Thaksin's proposed buyout of the Premier League club moved close to completion on Thursday when City's board recommended that its shareholders accept the offer.
If they sell and the takeover goes through, English soccer will have moved even further away from its working-class roots and into the hands of wealthy foreign investors.
Thaksin, the ousted Thai premier who faces corruption charges in his homeland, will stand alongside the various American owners of Manchester United, Liverpool and Aston Villa, and the billionaire Russian whose wealth guides Chelsea.
United has just regained the Premier League title from a Chelsea team which had won it two seasons in a row. Third-place Liverpool has reached the Champions League final twice in the last three years.
Fulham, Portsmouth and West Ham are also owned by foreigners and Blackburn and promoted Birmingham City are reportedly in negotiations with potential buyers from overseas. If those two clubs join the foreign ownership club, then half of next season's Premier League will be in the hands of overseas investors.
Thaksin offered $162 million for City. Once he takes his shareholding past 75 per cent, he has the power to take the club off the stock market and into private ownership and is set to make himself chairman.
"I am delighted that the board of Manchester City has recommended my bid for the club," Thaksin said in a statement released through the club. "I look forward to continuing the excellent work of (chairman) John Wardle and his team.
"We share a determination to take the club back to its rightful place at the highest level of competition in both the FA Premier League and European football."
Club under debt
Thaksin, who would first have to wipe out the club's reported $119 million debt, is widely expected to appoint former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson as the team's manager, possibly before the start of July.
"I have advisers working on the new manager and they inform me from time to time," Thaksin told Sky Sports News. "Sven-Goran Eriksson is one of the names that my adviser told me about. He has a very good reputation and he is a very capable coach. I had my adviser talk to him and just say hello and touch base."
Thaksin said it was too early for decisions.
"I can't say anything until next week," Thaksin said. "I hope to have a manager (by then)."
City fired manager Stuart Pearce at the end of last season, and, with the new campaign starting Aug. 11, City wants a new manager in charge by the time the players return for training in early July.
Eriksson has been out of a job since he quit as England coach after the 2006 World Cup. Although he has had success as a club manager with IFK Goteborg, Benfica, Sampdoria and Lazio, he failed to get England into the semifinals at two World Cups and a European Championship.
The development at Manchester City came after Thai prosecutors announced they had filed corruption charges against Thaksin in his homeland. But the military council that overthrew Thaksin, now living in exile in England, said they would not oppose his takeover of Manchester City.
Thai prosecutors filed corruption charges against Thaksin in the Supreme Court on Thursday, in the first criminal charges ever filed against a former premier in Thailand.
Thaksin was named along with his wife Pojamarn in a case involving allegations of wrongdoing in a land deal.
"What happens if he gets locked up?" Manchester City Supporters' Club chairman Alan Galley said. "Whether he is the right man I don't know, but surely they (the club) have not gone into it without a lot of background checking first."
Last season, City finished in 14th place in the Premier League, only four points clear of the relegation zone.
Manchester City has long been in the shadow of local rival Manchester United, which just won its ninth Premier League title. Thaksin says he wants to put City up with United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea.
City has not won a major trophy since the 1976 League Cup. Its last league championship came in 1968 in the days of England stars Colin Bell, Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee.
In those days, all the top division English clubs had British owners.
Now there are Russia's Roman Abramovich of Chelsea and Alexandre Gaydamak of Portsmouth; American businessmen Malcolm Glazer of Manchester United, George Gillett Jr and Tom Hicks of Liverpool and Randy Lerner of Aston Villa; Iceland's Eggert Magnusson of West Ham; and Egypt's Mohamed al Fayed of Fulham.