Port Vale: Business associates in twin bid to rescue the Vale
PAUL Wildes and his business associate Norman Smurthwaite are in pole position to become the new owners of Port Vale Football Club.
They are due to be unveiled as the new preferred bidders for the club by Vale's administrators tomorrow.
Wildes, a 35-year-old Sheffield-born venture capitalist, has a wide portfolio of business interests and is now based in the Cheshire area.
He is expected to link up with retired finance expert Smurthwaite, a fellow director of Altrincham-based firm Alchemy Investment Group, as part of a long-term plan to revive Vale's off-field fortunes.
Wildes, who is involved in businesses ranging from hotels and hospitality to property development, recruitment and hairdressing, has links to Stoke-on-Trent as a former finance director of the Caudwell Group.
He put together a rescue package to save troubled Darlington Football Club earlier this year, but eventually pulled out after failing to reach a settlement with out-going chairman Raj Singh.
He had planned to make more of the Quakers' 27,000 seat stadium as a concert venue and training academy, and it is understood he could have similar plans for Vale Park.
Port Vale Supporters' Club chairman Pete Williams is keen to find out more about the duo, but said: "The administrators have asked us all along to respect the confidentiality of any possible new owner so, until a preferred bidder is named, I won't comment on speculation.
"But I hope whoever the new preferred bidder is turns out to be genuine this time, and that he can take Port Vale forward.
"We've been invited to the club tomorrow and we'll presumably find out more then."
Wildes was finance chief for Caudwell before leaving to launch his own company, the Mansion Group, in 2007. It specialised in developing student accommodation.
He has since launched holding company Wildes Group, which has a number of subsidiaries and is involved in hotel development.
He also runs venture capital holding company Wildes Securities, which operates several beauty salons, and owns financial recruitment agency Wildes Group Recruitment and W Academy and Education, which provides apprenticeships for students in Sheffield and the North West.
Wildes is thought to be a Sheffield Wednesday fan, which could lead to some boardroom banter with manager Micky Adams, who has supported city rivals United since he was a boy.
Once Wildes and Smurthwaite have been formally named as preferred bidders, they will have to seek Football League approval before they can finally take charge of the club, which has been in administration since March.
Neither man was available for comment last night.
Rigg reveals his goal: Page 43