Sir Jim Ratcliffe's INEOS Group is in pole position to buy Manchester United after being named as the preferred bidder by the Glazer family.
The British billionaire has offered a deal worth £5billion for majority ownership of United which would see brothers Joel and Avram retain a partial stake in the Old Trafford giants.
Ratcliffe's main challengers throughout the protracted bidding process have been a consortium led by Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB).
However, after the former was identified as the Glazers' preferred bidder earlier this week, The Times now report that the current United owners are ready to discuss specifics.
It is understood that Ratcliffe's offer for the club could reach as high as a world-record £6 billion. His consortium's willingness to allow the Glazer family to retain a stake in the football club is also thought to be key to his apparent success.
But it is expected that the parts of United still owned by Joel and Avram Glazer will eventually be purchased by Ratcliffe over the next two to four years.
Sources close to the Qatari bid have indicated that they retain hope of completing a purchase. They could even submit an improved bid for the Red Devils to prevent Ratcliffe taking over.
The Qatari's final offer came in at under £5bn and there has been little contact with the Raine Group - who are overseeing the sale - since the latest bid was made.
Ratcliffe, a boyhood United fan and Britain's richest man with a reported fortune of £6.1 billion, has lodged a bid with the New York bank Raine Group to buy the Glazers' 69% stake in United.
The Glazers have owned United since 2005 and have been unpopular with many fans due to the way they financed the takeover, which involved loading the club with debt.
Ratcliffe, who is the founder and chairman of the INEOS Group, has said that he would invest heavily in the club and would look to win trophies.
He has also said that he would listen to the fans and would do everything he could to make United a success.