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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ilim Pulp Son Bids for Soccer Club

The son of Russian pulp and paper magnate Boris Zingarevich is bidding to become a leading shareholder in English soccer club Everton, in a 20 million pounds ($36.4 million) deal that would put him head to head with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in the English Premier League.

Anton Zingarevich, the 23-year-old son of Boris Zingarevich, the co-owner of Russia's biggest paper producer, Ilim Pulp, and an Abramovich business rival, is a founder of the Brunei-based Fortress Sports Fund, which is stumping up 20 million pounds for a 40 percent stake in the club, said Christopher Samuelson, fund chairman and one of its two other founders.

The deal, which is expected to be approved at an Everton board meeting on Monday, will also include an option for the fund to buy additional shares and take a majority 50.24 percent stake in the club within the year, Samuelson said Sunday by telephone.

The Liverpool-based club boasts England's star striker Wayne Rooney, but has been struggling to stay in the Premier League amid bitter boardroom battles and a huge cash crunch.

Anton Zingarevich could not be reached for comment Sunday, but Samuelson said the England-educated son of the paper tycoon, who is still studying at Regents Business School in London, was an avid soccer fan.

"Anton has been educated in England since the age of 14," he said. "He is very much an Anglophile and is extremely knowledgeable about football."

He could eventually take a seat on Everton's board, Samuelson said.

Although the sum involved pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions of dollars Abramovich spent in taking over Chelsea last year, Everton chairman Bill Kenwright said he hoped the cash injection would help the club regain its championship-winning standing of the 1980s.

"It is the ambition of myself and the sports fund to return Everton to its former glory," Kenwright said Sunday by telephone. "[Anton] is terrific. He's got an encyclopedic football knowledge and passion for the game."

The deal, if approved on Monday, is likely to further fuel the Russian-tycoon mania that has swept Britain ever since Abramovich bought Chelsea. Media fever over Russians-on-a-buying-spree mounted further last month following the $27 million purchase of a British sports car manufacturer by Nikolai Smolensky, the son of Alexander Smolensky.

The deal could also put Everton in a bidding war against Chelsea for Europe's best players.

Time is running out for Everton to improve its depleted team before an Aug. 31 deadline for transfers. Kenwright, however, said if the deal was approved, the club could announce that it had signed major new players later this week. "We've been tracking certain players throughout the summer," he said. "We hope to announce who within the next 10 days."

He refused to say how much they were willing to spend on new players. The club is still waiting for Rooney to sign a new contract this week for 50,000 pounds per week.

Samuelson said Everton, however, would not "throw money around" as Abramovich did. "We will run it as a business and not as an ego trip," he said. Samuelson is expected to take a place on the new Everton board.

The deep pockets of Sibneft owner Abramovich have sparked much jealousy in the English soccer world. Insiders jibe that he is attempting to buy the Premiership by spending so much money on players. Chelsea finished second in the league last year.

The Ilim Pulp empire, owned by Anton's father, his father's twin brother, Mikhail, and company board chairman Zakhar Smushkin, has been fighting off a takeover by Abramovich ally Oleg Deripaska for years.

The battle started in 2002, when a holding company set up by Deripaska and the founder of Promstroibank St. Petersburg, Vladimir Kogan, gained a 61 percent stake in Ilim Pulp's flagship Kotlas paper mill. But following allegations made by Ilim Pulp that Deripaska had tried to launch an armed takeover and a continued dispute over the legality of his acquisition of the stake, Ilim Pulp has retained control of the mill.

Deripaska co-owns Russian Aluminum with Abramovich.

Anton's father Boris, who according to Forbes Russia has a fortune of $330 million, was originally expected to be the sole buyer of the 40 percent stake. The Sunday Times reported Sunday that he was. But Samuelson said Sunday that was not the case. "Boris wanted it to be for his son," he said.

He also said Anton was only one of seven investors in the Fortress Sports Fund and the only Russian among them. He said he could not name the others.

Samuelson said he founded the Fortress Sports Fund with Anton Zingarevich and Jerome Anderson, one of the world's leading sports and entertainment agents. He said the group of investors behind the fund could grow as it made other investments in the sporting world. Zingarevich has a significant stake in the fund now, but it could later be reduced to a minor holding as new money comes in, he said.

The Everton deal could help pave the way for more recognition for Ilim Pulp and, in doing so, help it go ahead with plans for a full listing on the London Stock Exchange. A listing could help it stave off further pressure from Deripaska.

The fund is providing an initial guarantee of 5 million pounds to give the club immediate capital to buy new players, Samuelson said. The rest of the money will come in by September as the fund buys up the 40 percent stake in a new share issue.

He said the fund will buy the stake at a price of 857 pounds per share. It has an option to increase its holding to 50.24 percent via an issue of 12,000 more shares at the same price over the year, he said.

Under the deal, True Blue Holdings, which is currently the vehicle with a controlling 72 percent stake in Everton, will be disbanded, and its shareholders will own stakes directly in the club instead.

Kenwright currently owns about 36 percent of True Blue Holdings, while his boardroom rival Paul Gregg owns 35 percent.

The deal could be torpedoed at the last minute on Monday, but Kenwright said he hoped it would not just be accepted but "embraced."

Samuelson is chief executive of Mutual Trust, a global trust company. He is a former principal at another global trust company, Valmet, in which Menatep held a minority stake.