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Is this any way to run a football club?; DENS PARK CRISIS: Fans fear the worst as the Record reveals the latest twists in the club's shameful saga.

THE absentee landlord of decaying Dens Park is winding up his business interests in Scotland, a move which could spell the end of Dundee Football Club.

Club-owner Peter Marr is in self-imposed tax exile in Majorca, and now appears to be conducting the final throes of crisis management by telephone from his luxury villa.

The latest flurry of activity at the struggling club followed a move to cancel a share issue to Belgrade wheeler-dealer Giovanni di Stefano -- a close friend of the Serb war criminal Arkan.

The taint of slaughter, rape and ethnic cleansing by the warmongering Serbs finally persuaded the Dundee board to scrub the share issue.

Legal documents which rescind the 653,864 share transfer to di Stefano's company - Italo Yugoslav Airlines Inc - have now been lodged with Company House in Edinburgh.

But instead of relinquishing all interest, di Stefano has prepared a revised offer that would make him the Dundee President with a pounds 2.4million investment, and ensure a seat on the board for his son Michael.

The club have stated they will not be negotiating any new deal with di Stefano and are not interest in his new bid.

But the problem is they are refusing to answer question about pounds 800,000 which he paid into the club a month ago.

It is the latest twist in a shameful saga of claims, counter-claims and speculation that has dogged Dundee in recent months

Now loyal Dark Blue fans, who once regarded Mr Marr as their saviour, ask in ever increasing decibels: "Is this the way to run a football club?" Today the Record can also reveal that Marr has made moves to reopen merger talks with arch rivals Dundee United.

The view, however, of commerce and industry is that Dundee's position is now financially so weak that any joint venture would be a United take-over rather than a merger of equal partners. Ironically, Dundee's 2-1 win over Motherwell has added to their problems in the fight for survival.

Relegation would have given them a breathing space and allowed the club to delay the pounds 3 million redevelopment of Dens Park. At the moment, United are in even greater danger of making the drop to Division One and such a fate would certainly concentrate Tangerine minds on the possibility of saving their Premier status by merging.

The heavy plant of Barr Construction has already rolled into Dens Park to begin demolition and building work on new stands.

If Dundee are to survive in the top flight they must meet the ground standards set by the Scottish Premier League. It took Barr 16 weeks to complete a similar development at East End Park, Dunfermline and there are just 14 weeks left till July 31 and the start of the new football season.

More frantic phone calls from the Dundee bosses have secured a ground share deal with Airdrie at Shyberry Excelsior.

Amid all the talk and club hype of a revamped Dens Park, one very important question still remains unanswered - where is the money coming from?

Dundee's commercial manager, Jim Connor, declined to say who was putting cash into the redevelopment pot.

Asked to confirm that it was London merchant bankers, Close Brothers Limited, Connor said: "The deal has been put in place by a financial institution, but we have given an undertaking not to say who it is."

The silence has fuelled fears and speculation that the spectre of Giovanni di Stefano and his fat wallet have not been totally exorcised. The Belgrade businessman was viewed by Marr and the majority of Dundee supporters as the white knight riding to their rescue.

But the darker side of his dealings, and the pitch black shame of his close associate, Arkan, has forced a change of heart.

The Royal Bank of Scotland threatened to pull the plug on their account and it is understood they were ready to abandon all business dealings with the Marr business empire.

Marr had agreed to sell a 10 per cent stake in Dundee to di Stefano and the share deal was registered on March 24, at Company House in Edinburgh.

That share allotment document showed that 653,864 shares with a nominal value of 10p each had indeed been transferred to di Stefano's airline company. A month ago we revealed that pounds 800,000 had been transferred from Belgrade through Barclays Bank in London to the Dens Park coffers.

Peter Marr repeatedly denied there had been any deal with the infamous di Stefano.

Despite the close links between di Stefano and Arkan, Peter Marr travelled to Brussels last month to meet the man with the famous football name. And despite the best advice that he should have nothing to do with him, Marr shook hands on a business deal.

Yesterday, commercial manager Connor was adamant that all deals with the Italian born di Stefano were null and void. He insisted: "As far as we are concerned, Giovanni di Stefano was put to bed some time ago."

But there was no explanation about what has happened to the pounds 800,000 cash drop he made to Dundee. Insiders believe the money is being used as security for the merchant bank deal and could now be offshore.

Despite the apparent setback for the Belgrade businessman, he is still very determined to get his boot in the Dens Park door.

The blueprint of an amazing new offer that purports to come from di Stefano and would see him installed as Dundee Football Club president, has been divulged to the Record.

The new proposal would give him a total stake of pounds 2.4million in the ailing Scottish club. His son, Michael, would become a director of the club.

The Sandhurst Assets Corporation, a company used previously by di Stefano and known to the Dundee board, is still trying to broker a deal.

Sandhurst would pay pounds 850,000 to buy 84.6 per cent of the issued capital and weigh in with a further pounds 1.55 million to clear outstanding debts.

The money is said to be due to three companies owned by the Marr brothers, Peter and Jimmy, Camperdown Construction Limited, Call-a-Keg Limited, and Tayside Taverns Limited.

Dundee FC secretary Ritchie Robertson, who registered the Italo-Yugoslav share deal and then cancelled it, said last night that he knew nothing about any continuing negotiations with di Stefano.

He added, however: "Nothing would surprise me."
COPYRIGHT 1999 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:McCARTNEY, BRIAN
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 16, 1999
Words:1070
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