Is Cullum cash the answer for City?

The "white knight" who said the credit crunch would prevent him from buying Norwich City FC yesterday revealed his firm's earnings topped �100m last year.

The "white knight" who said the credit crunch would prevent him from buying Norwich City FC yesterday revealed his firm's earnings topped �100m last year.

Entrepreneur Peter Cullum was engaged in on-off talks to take a controlling stake in the Canaries last year, but ruled himself out when the economic climate turned from boom to bust.

But yesterday Mr Cullum's insurance business, Towergate, revealed that pre-tax earnings will top �109m in 2008 - "marginally ahead" of earnings in 2007 - despite last year's credit crisis and turmoil in the UK's financial services industry.

The news came as City's relegation fears deepened after Barnsley claimed a vital point against Coventry, putting the Yorkshire club two points ahead of the Canaries, who are third from bottom.

Towergate's results threatened to reopen the debate about the club's future ownership.

John Tilson, chairman of Norwich City Independent Supporters' Association, said last night: “Because of the way this whole scenario was handled, it was never going to go away.

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“We are now on the brink of relegation and this could reopen the whole debate among Norwich fans about the rights and wrongs of the Peter Cullum affair.

“The last thing a lot of people expected was for a company like his to be doing so well at the moment. But if we do get relegated, our need for new investment will be greater than ever, and this debate now threatens to come back like a boomerang.”

Mr Cullum was unavailable for comment yesterday. But an upbeat statement from Towergate about the firm's "strong performance" last year was a marked contrast to the cautious tone struck by the Norwich-born entrepreneur in December, when he warned that "every business is being seriously hit by what's going on in the wider economic environment… my business is no different. We are all under the cosh".

Mr Cullum said at the time that the change in the economic situation since he first made his �20m offer for new players in exchange for a controlling stake made it unlikely that he would step in to buy the football club.

A month earlier, in an in-depth interview with the Mercury's sister paper the Eastern Daily Press, he hinted that he would only intervene financially if the club was faced with administration.

Meanwhile, in a separate development, the finance brokerage run by former Norwich City directors Andrew and Sharon Turner reported a �13m fall in pre-tax profits last year.

But Mr Turner, chairman of Norwich-based Central Trust, said the "worst was past" and predicted a rise in earnings in 2009.

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