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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lakshmi Mittal Talking About QPR

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Evening Standard/Mihir Bose - Neil Warnock is promised a Premier League war chest
Lakshmi Mittal has promised fresh investment in Queens Park Rangers should they win promotion back to the Premier League.

Britain's richest man, whose wealth is estimated at £24billion, was not at Loftus Road for last night's 0-0 draw with Derby. The result means Neil Warnock's team need to win at Cardiff on Saturday to guarantee a return to the top flight for the first time since 1996.

In a rare interview, Mittal said he was sure the west London club were now ready for a return to the big time.

"There is still much we need to improve," he told Standard Sport. "The defence, for example. To stay up we will also need a good goalscorer. But it is very different to a year ago. Then, if you had asked me, I would have said QPR should not go into the Premier League. But now we are ready."

Mittal has been cautious with his level of spending since becoming involved with Rangers three years ago. The £3.5million signing of Alejandro Faurlin is by far the largest transfer since the Indian bought a 20 per cent stake in December 2007.

That deal is now the subject of an investigation after QPR were charged with seven breaches of Football Association regulations on third-party rules with a verdict expected the day before the last game of the season.

When asked if there will be money to spend next season, Mittal said: "I think so because it is a big responsibility. You have to live up to the Premier League. But there are some clubs who like to have a big budget. There are other clubs who can do a job with limited budgets but higher productivity."

This does not suggest a Roman Abramovich-style spree but football has always been entertainment, not business for Mittal.

On coming to London, the club he first followed was Chelsea. The Mittals had a box there but he is not like Abramovich. "I know Roman because he is also in the steel business," he said. "For him Chelsea is his passion. I am a fan of QPR but I will not have that kind of passion. I am passionate about my business."

Although the Mittals own a third of QPR - the rest is held by Bernie Ecclestone - it is his son-in-law Amit Bhatia who runs the club. Mittal said: "Nobody recognises me. I keep Amit in front. QPR going into the Premier League is a very exciting moment for us as a family."

As passive investors, the family held a 20 per cent stake but they came close to walking away 14 months ago when Flavio Briatore's problems with Formula One forced him to step down.

Mittal, 60, added: "When Flavio stepped down, the club were orphaned but Amit took up this challenge."

What has particularly pleased Mittal is Bhatia's recruitment of Warnock from Crystal Palace. He added: "He is a great guy and I hope he continues to lead QPR after we win promotion." Evening Standard

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