Paphos-born Mehmet Dalman, who is also the chairman of Championship side Cardiff City, revealed that he had flown to Tripoli to meet the tyrant.
“People don’t realise how the [takeover] deal was a whisker away from going to Libya,” he told the Sunday Times.
“Gaddafi almost bought the club. That’s how close it got — literally you’re talking about a few hours.”
Mr Dalman, a former adviser to Malcom Glazer, the late American billionaire who led the controversial family takeover of the Old Trafford club in 2005, told how he had flown to Libya on a borrowed private jet to push the deal through.
In an interview, he told the paper that he met first with Gadaffi’s advisers, “and then the old man himself”, adding: “I remember saying, ‘Listen, you are buying the Church of England . . . you do realise that? Manchester United is a religion’.”
Mr Dalman said Gadaffi had pressed for a deal but that they “couldn’t agree on the price, but it got very close”.
The Sunday Times reported that Mr Dalman had been “on the brink of an astounding deal” after purchasing 2.5 per cent of United “on a whim” while working for Germany’s Commerzbank.
The paper said Mr Dalman “ultimately engineered the Glazers’ takeover”, but before that he helped John Magnier and JP McManus sell their 29.9 per cent shareholding.
“It was then the biggest stake in United and whoever had it could control the club. That so nearly became Gaddafi,” the paper commented.
Mr Dalman was born in Cyprus in 1958, emigrating with his family to the UK in 1968. He had a trial with Crystal Palace as a teenager, before focusing on his education, studying at the London School of Economics.
He quit Commerzbank in 2004 before setting up his own hedge fund group, WMG. He also advised Richard Desmond on his takeover of Express newspapers.
Mr Dalman became Cardiff City chairman in 2013.
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