Man City owners planning Virgin-like brand empire

LONDON - A strategy document drawn up by Manchester City's wealthy new owners outlines plans to rival Richard Branson's Virgin Group by expanding the City brand into a range of markets from automotive to energy drinks.

The ambitious plan comes after the club's prospective new owners, Abu Dhabi United Group, reached a deal to buy the club last week and on the same day broke the British transfer record when they paid Real Madrid £32.5m for Brazilian footballer Robinho.

The royal family of Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich Gulf state, are close to completing a £200m takeover of City and are keen to leverage the Premier League's overseas popularity using Richard Branson's Virgin empire as an inspiration.

The plans have been outlined in an 83-page document called 'A New Model for Partnership in Football', which reveals a strategy that would lead to a significant rebranding and tap into markets as wide-ranging as financial services, fashion, retail, transport, communications and the food industry.

The document boldly states that the club should aim "to be the Virgin of Asia and the world".

Some of the ideas include deals with Tata, the Indian car manufacturer, for 'Citycars' and China Mobile for City branded phone cards, a range of new energy drinks by Red Bull called 'City Powered', 'City Energy' and 'City 24/7'.

Others include food outlets under the name 'City Eating' and a range of credit cards dubbed 'Citycard'.

It is unclear whether any of the companies mentioned have been approached by the ruling Al-Nahyan family of Abu Dhabi and Dr Sulaiman al-Fahim, the prominent Middle East businessman fronting the takeover.

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