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Steel tycoon buys a slice of football club

London, Dec. 20: Lakshmi Mittal has bought a 20 per cent shareholding in QPR, the English football club announced today.

The sum he paid was not immediately disclosed.

The Indian steel magnate will be represented on the board of Queens Park Rangers alongside Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore.

Formula One chief Ecclestone and Renault team boss Briatore took over the running of QPR last month and have pledged hefty transfer funds for manager Luigi De Canio.

Rangers are currently at the bottom of the Championship but they could now potentially rival west London neighbours Chelsea in the transfer market should Mittal dip into his vast fortune, football analysts predicted today.

It remains to be seen whether Mittal will become the new Roman Abramovich in the style of the flamboyant Russian who owns Chelsea.

Mittal is ranked number five on the 2007 Forbes list, with a fortune estimated at $32 billion. His family owns 45 per cent of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company.

Since he has a busy life running the global firm as its chief executive, he will be represented on the QPR board by son-in-law Amit Bhatia, who was hitherto thought to be keener on cricket.

Bhatia, it will be recalled, married Mittal’s daughter, Vanisha, in June 2004, in Versailles and other locations in France in a wedding which apparently cost £30m.

Bhatia said: “The family is excited about becoming involved with Queens Park Rangers Football Club. As a family, we love sport and particularly enjoy English football, and alongside Bernie and Flavio, we hope that we can improve the club’s performance, with the ultimate ambition of a place in the Premier League.”

The delighted QPR board said in a statement: “This investment in QPR by the Mittal family is a great stepping stone towards the future development of the club and supports the ambition of the current shareholders to reach the Premier League in the near future.”

It added: “The new capital being invested in QPR will help fund the programme that is needed to help us achieve this target.”

The steel magnate was a guest of Ecclestone and Briatore for the 0-0 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Loftus Road last Saturday which left QPR at the bottom of the Championship.

Mittal is a friend of Ecclestone after buying the latter’s palatial £70-million house in Kensington Palace Gardens.

A Rangers source told a newspaper: “The club heard Mittal had been interested in Wigan and Everton, but this is a lot closer to home. He already knew Bernie from the time when he bought his house. The real worry is what clubs are going to want for players when Rangers try to buy them.”

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