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  25th January, 2008
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SISU run rule over the Rams
Derby County have confirmed that potential investors SISU Capital have already been on a fact-finding mission at the club.

Yesterday the Rams revealed that they are in talks with the London-based private equity venture capital firm about a deal that could see SISU pay off all or part of the club's £44m debt.

Rams operations director Paul Clouting said: "SISU have been here and had a look at the stadium and the Moor Farm training ground.

"They see the strength of our fan base and the passion of the supporters. They see the potential of the business.

"Just to reassure people - this is about Derby County Football Club and nobody is more aware than the board of how important it is to do the best thing for Derby County. That is what the board is trying to do."

SISU are still refusing to confirm that they are in talks with the Rams.

But spokesman for the company, Jack Irvine, said that if SISU was interested in the Rams it would "probably want to put a member on the board at the club and restructure the club's management".

He added: "If it was interested, SISU would want to invest in new players, take the club back into the Premiership and then sell when it would be worth five, seven, eight or 10 times what it is now.

"There would be changes to the Board."

Irvine said that SISU, who specialise in companies that were "approaching insolvency", would not, in Derby County's case, be interested in asset stripping the club.

"They've got no assets to strip," he said, adding that Pride Park has value as a stadium only while it has a team and that planning height restrictions on the training ground site would restrict its value.

Supporters remain concerned, some deeply, and Clouting has moved to ease fears about possible asset stripping.

"I will answer that with a question. What is it that makes somebody want to invest their money in a business that they think is going to fail rather than one with huge potential for success?" added Clouting.

"If we take a view that SISU is not in the best interests of Derby County, then we will take the matter no further. The plan has always been to stabilise the club and then look to see if there is anything out there to help take the club forward.

"What a great position it would be for the club if the debt was largely wiped out, so removing the need to fork out huge amounts on interest payments."

Any subsequent reorganisation at the Rams could be at the expense of chairman John Sleightholme and director of football Murdo Mackay, though this has not been confirmed.

If a deal is struck, it is likely that both would leave.

Mackay said: "I'm just focused on trying to help caretaker manager Terry Westley, Steve Taylor and the players as much as I can."

Fact file

SISU Capital describes itself as a "special situations investment fund" management company.

It is also a hedge fund manager. A hedge fund is an investment in which the risk is shared by up to 100 clients.

Its listed directors are Dermot Coleman (44) and Joy Seppala, a 44-year-old Finnish-American.

In Finnish, Sissu means "inner fortitude, inner strength and guts."

Hedge funds investors are typically people who have created wealth from the markets and are therefore deemed to understand how they work.

Most hedge funds set high minimum investment limits. The risks are high but so are the returns when successfully managed.

SISU capital, which specialises in turning around distressed companies, is currently managing "hundreds of millions of pounds" of investors money.

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