Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Speculation mounts over Lenagan bid for Wigan Warriors

Reports that Wigan RLFC major shareholder Dave Whelan is considering offloading his stake in the club has led to speculation that a consortium led by current Harlequins RL Chairman and majority shareholder Ian Lenagan is one of two contenders vying to gain control of the Super League club.

Whelan, who also controls Wigan Athletic Football Club and the JJB Stadium which both clubs share, is understood to be interested in selling following a series of events that have seen the club punished for breaching the Super League salary cap two years in succession, the team underachieve on the pitch and the decision of Chairman Maurice Lindsay to retire at the end of the season having increasingly become the target of criticism from fans.

Lenagan, a successful businessman and theatre entrepreneur born and raised in Wigan, has yet to confirm or deny any interest, but is reported as retaining both close links to his hometown and a lifelong support for the Wigan club

Should Lenagan acquire control of the Wigan club it would undoubtedly cast doubts on the long-term future of Harlequins RL, the London based club he took control of in 2005. It was Lenagan who was the driving force behind the London club’s partnership with the Harlequins rugby union club which saw the rugby league club relocate to The Twickenham Stoop and re-brand from their previous incarnation as London Broncos.

Many fans of Harlequins RL understandably appear to be concerned at this development, although it’s far from clear whether Lenagan would be forced to offload his stake in their club following the acquisition of any stake in Wigan RLFC. Without Lenegan Harlequins RL may be forced to look for new investors, or alternatively look towards their partners Harlequins RU for support.

The other candidate for Whelan’s stake in the club is understood to be Chorley born millionaire Trevor Hemmings, the owner of Littlewoods Pools and Blackpool Tower, who already has several sporting interests including the majority shareholding of Championship football club Preston North End.

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