Local businessman David Clowes is in pole position to complete a takeover of Derby County.
Clowes is on course to be named as preferred bidder on Friday by administrators Quantuma in the latest twist for the stricken League One club.
It is understood he has already struck a deal to buy Pride Park Stadium from former chairman Mel Morris and is now in the driving seat to also acquire the football club and its assets.
Mike Ashley, the former Newcastle United owner, and a group fronted by Andrew Appleby, the ex-Derby chairman, have also been in the bidding process but Clowes has now jumped to the front of the queue.
Clowes is undergoing the Football League’s owners’ and directors’ test and must make a decision on Friday if he will either buy the club outright or work with one of the other interested parties.
Derby have been in administration since September and with the first-team squad returning to training on Monday have only seven senior players under contract.
Several of their young players have been linked with moves this summer and manager Wayne Rooney has spoken of the need to make wholesale signings to be competitive next season.
This week Ashley ramped up his bid by depositing £50 million to acquire the club and Pride Park.
Meanwhile, Appleby’s General Sports Worldwide group submitted a “highly competitive” offer last week. Appleby, who was Derby chairman between 2008 and 2015, told American media his bid was “down to the final strokes”.
Clowes is believed to have agreed to buy Pride Park from Morris as part of the process which would have seen the previous preferred bidder, Chris Kirchner, leased the ground when he took over the club. Kirchner was unable to complete his deal and withdrew his interest last week.
Now Clowes is in a strong position to buy the troubled club, with staff due to be informed of the latest developments in an update on Friday morning.