NU happy to help in Cullum talks

PUBLISHED: 09:40 10 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:38 10 September 2010

Sarah Hall

Norwich Union today revealed how it was “happy to help” break the stalemate in the Norwich City takeover saga - by brokering talks between billionaire Peter Cullum and Carrow Road majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones.

Norwich Union today revealed how it was “happy to help” break the stalemate in the Norwich City takeover saga - by brokering talks between billionaire Peter Cullum and Carrow Road majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones.

The Evening News reported on Monday how Mr Cullum had been invited by the pair to discuss his bid to take control of the Canaries.

And it emerged today that Norwich Union played a key role in persuading the parties to sit down and talk about a deal which would see major changes - and big investment - at Carrow Road.

City's directors seemed set to snub Mr Cullum's call for talks after the executive chairman of insurance firm Towergate revealed he made a £20m offer to buy players and take control of the club in October last year.

The revelation that the 57-year-old's offer was not taken up by the club left fans baffled and asking why Delia and Mr Wynn Jones would not reopen dialogue over their controlling interest.

Now - thanks in part to Norwich Union's intervention - the club directors and Mr Cullum have agreed to enter into discussions.

A Norwich Union spokesman said: “We do know both parties in this very well, and we are always happy to help for the benefit of the club and the supporters.”

The name of parent company Aviva, which will replace the Norwich Union brand in the next couple of years, is on City's shirts for the next three years for an unspecified seven-figure sum, and it is in its interests to see investment to help the club push for the Premiership and an enhanced global profile.

Norwich Union is also one of Towergate's main business partners, and former Norwich Union executive chairman Patrick Snowball is the Maidstone-based firm's deputy chairman.

Mr Cullum, estimated to be worth £1.7bn, offered in October to give £5m to buy players to get City away from the relegation zone, followed by £15m to finance a promotion push this season - with majority shareholding thrown in.

Self-confessed Norwich City fan Mr Cullum also said he wanted to keep Delia on board as an “icon and figurehead”, with his own representatives and a supporter taking places on the board.

But when news of the offer was revealed, the club hit back by saying he would have to top up his £20m with another £36m to pay off the debts, settle directors' loans and buy up all the shares at £30 each.

After that the situation seemed to reached a stalemate, but, in an exclusive interview with the Evening News' Saturday footballer paper The Pink 'Un columnist Man On The Stands he revealed on Monday that the talks were back on.

Any talks between the two sides are expected to take place next week at the earliest.

In some quarters Mr Cullum has been criticised for going public with the deal but he said Delia's comments at the Royal Norfolk Show about forthcoming investment meant he felt he needed to break his silence after people assumed she meant him.

Visit www.pinkun.com for all the latest from Carrow Road and to join in the debate over Mr Cullum's bid on the message boards.

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