Motherwell yesterday confirmed that local multi-millionaire property developer Tom Coakley had lodged an "expression of interest" in buying out John Boyle's 76% shareholding at Fir Park.

However, The Herald understands that a deal has been agreed in principle last night with Coakley appointing Brian Jackson as chairman, Chris McCart as director of football and Alan Dick as stadium director.

Earlier, suggestions that the deal could amount to as much as £10m were said to be exaggerated and any agreement being reached between the two businessmen before Saturday's relegation struggle against St Mirren was thought to be highly unlikely.

At that stage, a spokesman for Motherwell said: "The club has not been sold in a £10m takeover deal, as has been suggested in the media today. There has been an expression of interest in the club and discussions have taken place but no deal has been done. At present, the club is focusing all its energy and efforts on achieving a successful end to the season."

Coakley's advisors refused to comment yesterday on his intentions to assume control of Motherwell. His son, Adam, is the club's top goalscorer in the reserves but is expected to be released in the summer by Maurice Malpas.

The manager's job appears safe for the time being, despite Motherwell slipping into relegation territory after a series of defeats.

The owner of the Coakley Group is in Spain on business. In 20 years he has become one of Scotland's most successful and fearsomely private property tycoons.

The 45-year-old, originally from Viewpark, near Bellshill, but who now has bases in London and Spain, has grown a small, independent property development business into a commercial and residential portfolio worth an estimated £120m.

Coakley, who left school at 15 to fulfil a dream of playing football, first indulged his entrepreneurial instincts by selling cars at auction to supplement his meagre income as an aspiring professional at Dundee.

"I wanted to play football, but when I went to play for Dundee I hated every minute of it - the travelling and the low wages were terrible, and I suppose I wasn't really very good," said the nephew of the former Motherwell favourite of the same name.

He was quickly advised to review his career path and his successful car salesman techniques soon spread.

"I wanted to save £1000 - that was my ambition," he said in a recent interview with The Herald.

"I remember selling a car for £300 and spreading the money across my bed and counting it over and over again. I figured if I could make £300 once, I could do it again, and that's been my business philosophy through the years.

"Eventually, I saved up enough money for a down payment on a one-bedroom flat in Bellshill, which I converted into a two bedroom flat and sold for considerably more than I paid for. Then I did that again, building it up, and I was on my way. I thought I was very clever."

Coakley's first flush of fortune arrived in 1993. He sold 12 shop premises along the Trongate for £600,000, quadrupling his investment in six months. "I thought I was really clever then, too, but the people I sold it to turned round and sold it again a bit later for £17m," he said. "Now that was cleverer."

He has all the trappings of success: Rolls-Royces, a private jet and a tradition of splashing out on a mammoth piece of bling to celebrate the closing of a deal. Yet his wealth has not been achieved without enduring personal suffering. Coakley suffered a life-threatening stroke - the kind of which claimed the life of his father, Eddie, a former car mechanic turned boxing manager and promoter who died in 1992. He describes his biggest regret as never having his father share in his success.

He has three sons - one of whom works with him in the property business, the second, Adam, plays for Motherwell, and the third is still school age and lives at home. His youngest son was born with meningitis and Coakley has learned the priceless value of a happy family life.

He, along with his son, have bought-up around £20m of prime property in the exclusive Mayfair district. Coakley has also developed a shopping complex in the middle of Malaga, where he has a house near actor, Antonio Banderas, and is a landlord to Lloyds TSB and the Clydesdale Bank headquarters in Glasgow.

In the past two years, he has purchased more than £34m worth of property and sold £17.5m. Motherwell post-administration are a relatively low-risk investment for a man who estimates an annual income of £850,000 per year if he gave up work immediately. While he is said to be keen to implement a new business management structure at Fir Park, it is doubtful he will allow his ambition to consume him as it did to Boyle.

The former chairman sanctioned the signings of Andy Goram, Don Goodman, Ged Brannan, John Spencer, Tony Thomas and Roberto Martinez. The short-term impact was overshadowed by the grim reality that Boyle, who owns the Zoom airline company, had spent beyond the club's means and sent the club hurtling into administration, causing 19 redundancies in the process. Time line

1998 Boyle buys out former chairman John Chapman. Declares his intention to make Motherwell a third force in Scottish football by drawing Lanarkshire-based supporters away from the Old Firm and back to Fir Park.

Aug 1998-Jan 1999 Motherwell embark on an ambitious foray into the transfer market, recruiting high-earning players such as John Spencer, Ged Brannan, Tony Thomas and Andy Goram.

Feb 2001 Boyle reflects on a £2.9m loss for the financial year ending in May 2000. "We thought our targets were realistic, but we haven't increased our fan-base. It has actually gone down," he said.

Apr 2002 Motherwell enter administration.

Nine players are sacked and a further 10 are told that their contracts would not be renewed.

Three non-playing staff also depart. Boyle writes off £10m of his own money and breaks down in tears at the press conference to announce the club's insolvency. Terry Butcher takes over as manager from Eric Black.

2002-03 Motherwell finish bottom of the league but avoid relegation due to the failure of Falkirk's Brockville to meet SPL stadium requirements.

2005 Motherwell reach League Cup final and come out of administration.

2007 Businessman Tom Coakley is linked with a buy-out of Boyle's controlling stake in the club.