Football: From Miss Venezuela, Playboy Magazine and Pizza Hut. to the Premiership; WORLD EXCLUSIVE: GUSTAVO CISNEROS THE MAN WHO WANTS TO BUY VILLA Cisneros Goes Fishing with Former President George Bush, Knows Dubya and His Brother Jeb as Pals, and Is Friends with Jimmy Carter

The Mirror (London, England), July 18, 2003 | Go to article overview

Football: From Miss Venezuela, Playboy Magazine and Pizza Hut. to the Premiership; WORLD EXCLUSIVE: GUSTAVO CISNEROS THE MAN WHO WANTS TO BUY VILLA Cisneros Goes Fishing with Former President George Bush, Knows Dubya and His Brother Jeb as Pals, and Is Friends with Jimmy Carter


Byline: Martin Lipton CHIEF FOOTBALL WRITER

MANCHESTER UNITED aimed for the New World and found little response except bemusement.

Real Madrid are using David Beckham in their quest to make the Far East the cash cow that will fuel their dreams of global conquest.

Perhaps, then, it was only a matter of time before somebody in the Third World decided that the Premiership could be the vehicle they might use to bring in new riches.

But if Gustavo Cisneros does walk into Aston Villa as the new owner, the Holte Enders will be excused for believing all their dreams have come true.

It does not matter if Cisneros could not tell Gary Shaw from Sandie Shaw. What Villa have been crying out for is the cash to prove they are still a big club, not a team living on past glories.

As benefactors go, Cisneros is more than just a rich man with money to spend. He is a Latin American version of Roman Abramovich - with even better connections.

Contrast

Abramovich knows Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, but the pair are currently barely on speaking terms.

Cisneros, by contrast, goes fishing with former President George Bush, counts 'Dubya' and his brother Jeb as pals, knows Jimmy Carter - another former President - and was hailed as a visionary when he was awarded an International Emmy by the US television industry last year.

The son of Cuban immigrants, Cisneros has turned the family firm into one of the biggest conglomerates on the other side of the Atlantic. Everything, from Coca-Cola to Playboy magazine, the Miss Venezuela contest to supermarkets and Pizza Hut to the Internet provider AOL, comes under his embrace.

But just like Rupert Murdoch, with whom he is often compared, Cisneros knows that sport is the way into the hearts and minds of his target audience.

And when he already owns virtually all the satellite and Spanish language pay-TV stations, the chance to buy ready-made access to the Premiership in the form of Aston Villa is an opportunity he is not ready to let pass by.

If the Villa fans are looking for a sign of Cisneros' ambitions, they would be heartened by his comment when he paid pounds 70million - three times what he would need to buy the club lock, stock and barrel - to take control of broadcasters Satellite Images in 1997.

Pressed on his goals, Cisneros looked his inquisitors in the face and said, simply: "We only want to reach the sky."

He has the means to do exactly that. The American "Forbes" magazine valued his fortune at around pounds 4bn, making Cisneros the 64th richest man on the planet, and No.2 in South America.

When Venezuelans speak about Cisneros, they do so with an element of fear, so wide do his tentacles reach. One source in Caracas explained: "If Mr Cisneros wants something done, it tends to happen. He is that important. He is more wealthy than anybody else in the country and more powerful too. He can do anything he wants."

Anything, it seems, includes Aston Villa. …

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Football: From Miss Venezuela, Playboy Magazine and Pizza Hut. to the Premiership; WORLD EXCLUSIVE: GUSTAVO CISNEROS THE MAN WHO WANTS TO BUY VILLA Cisneros Goes Fishing with Former President George Bush, Knows Dubya and His Brother Jeb as Pals, and Is Friends with Jimmy Carter
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