US tycoon buys Northern Ireland football ground
A Northern Ireland football grounds have been sold to the club's owner and property tycoon Kenny Bruce.
The deal to acquire Larne Football Club's ground involving Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and the co-founder of Purplebricks Group plc was finalised at a meeting last night.
It's set to bring significant investment in the grounds, including the construction of a 4G playing surface and installation of floodlights for the 2018/19 season.
Inver Park went on the market in February. At the time, Mr Bruce said he hoped to buy the site. However, Mr Bruce added that he was concerned that the grounds could be purchased by a property developer who would change the use of the site.
The council, however, confirmed that the 4.73-acre package will remain at the disposal of the club.
Mid and East Antrim Alderman Gregg McKeen said: "This is a huge step forward in terms of the sale of Inver Park and a great result for Larne FC and Mid and East Antrim.
"The successful bidder has set out exciting and ambitious plans for the venue, which I have no doubt will ensure a fantastic future for Larne FC and the local community. The plans for Inver Park are to create a hub of sporting activity to be used and enjoyed by the people of Larne."
Mr Bruce added: "We have a charity set up to purchase Inver Park and the trustees will hold that asset for the Larne people so that it remains a centre for sporting excellence for hundreds of years to come.
"We hope to conclude the transaction as soon as possible so we can complete the works on a new 4G playing surface and floodlights for the start of the 2018-2019 season.
"We'd like thank the councillors of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and especially the council itself and its chief executive Anne Donaghy for the faith they have shown in our project."
Anne Donaghy, chief executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, said she and other members of the council have been "impressed" by Mr Bruce's "vision, passion and ambition" for the club.
She credited the businessman, who resides in Los Angeles but has family links to Larne, for boosting the turnout of spectators at recent games. She said: "The successful bid by Larne Football Club (NI) Charity is to be welcomed and we look forward to now entering into formal talks regarding the sale of Inver Park."
The transaction will be subject to the terms within the conditions of the sale including a covenant prohibiting the use of the land for anything other than sports or recreational purposes.
Following the takeover of the club last September, Mr Bruce invested thousands of pounds in the aspiring Championship outfit. Then he announced plans to develop the stadium and invest heavily in the squad. He has since bought players in deals that have seen them outbid Irish League teams.
And away from the pitch, Mr Bruce is celebrating a £125m investment in his firm Purplebricks from Axel Springer.
Axel Springer, which owns two newspapers in Germany, bought an 11.5% stake in the digital property firm.