Purplebricks boss Kenny Bruce is cementing his status as the new Abramovich after completing a deal to buy football ground Inver Park.
Larne Football Club, which is owned by multi-millionaire Bruce, has bought Inver Park for £117,500.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council listed the ground for sale in February and entered into negotiations with the club, which has been based at the grounds since 1918.
Under the deal, the ground is subject to a covenant prohibiting the use of the land for anything other than sports or recreational purposes.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, Bruce, who launched Purplebricks with his brother Michael, set up a charity for the purchase.
“We are delighted our charity’s offer to purchase Inver Park has been accepted and now finalised by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council,” he said. “We have been very impressed by the support we have received from the local authority for our project to create first-class sports facilities at Inver Park for the Larne people.”
The trustees of the charity will hold the asset for the people of Larne “so that it remains a centre for sporting excellence for hundreds of years to come,” he added.
“Attention now is on investment works on a new 4G playing surface and floodlights for the start of 2018-2019 season,” Bruce said.
The council, led by chief executive Anne Donaghy, said football ground renovations, including the grandstand extension, the addition of a new playing surface and new floodlights had started.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Lindsay Millar said: “This is a positive step forward for both Larne FC and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. Kenny Bruce and his team set out ambitious plans for the venue and a fantastic vision for the future of Larne FC and the community.”
The investment is a turnaround in fortunes for the club which last summer had to temporarily close Inver Park due to safety concerns.
The council didn’t reveal how many other offers it received, but said offers were evaluated against the conditions of sale and a negotiated process was entered into to ensure best value was obtained for the council and its citizens.
DMZ is glad to see Bruce putting some of his enormous wealth back into the local community.
Last December, the brothers sold large chunks of their shares in Purplebricks, netting them a tidy £17 million in cash.
Earlier this year, the online agency revealed plans to speed up its overseas expansion after receiving a £125 million investment from Axel Springer. The German publisher and property portal owner has bought an 11.5% stake in Purplebricks, which will be used to fund a faster roll-out of the hybrid agency in the US, prepare for entry into new markets and improve its IT systems.
So far, the international expansion has resulted in the company’s losses widening. Purplebricks reported a pre-tax loss of £26.1 million for the year to April, up from a loss of £6 million the year before.
The company reported operating losses in both the US and Australia, with only the UK reporting a profit.
“Whilst the markets in the UK and Australia have been and continue to be challenging for the industry, with overall transaction volume and sentiment down year on year, we have managed to gain market share, increase revenues and grow customer engagement in all three countries in which we operate,” the company said in its results statement.