The attempt by Chinese-American billionaire Chien Lee and his partner, Paul Conway, to buy Partick Thistle – a transaction which could be concluded this week – could prove to be the first in a series of purchases of Scottish clubs by entrepreneurs from the USA.

Even Celtic and Rangers could be vulnerable to bids from wealthy Wall Street-listed companies, who could turn the SPFL Premiership into the MLS now the biggest names in England and Europe have been taken over by Russians, Asians or oil-rich Arab states.

Should Lee and Conway’s New City Capital assume control at Firhill, then almost half of the Championship clubs next season will be under American ownership, with Ayr United, Dundee and Dundee United already in that category.

One source, who has worked with clubs in Scotland and also had dealings with soccer and basement franchises in the USA, believes further takeovers are inevitable.

“I believe that this is the most significant development in Scottish football since Rangers went into liquidation in 2012,” said the bus-inessman, who preferred to remain anonymous.

“There is a trend now. Ayr United, Dundee and Dundee United are already owned by Americans and, if the Thistle deal is concluded, it will mean that almost 10 per cent of SPFL clubs will fall into that bracket.

“Lee and Conway are the real deal. They have plenty of money but they spend it to make more so they’ll see Thistle as an opportunity to grow the club and then sell it on.

“Where they lead others will follow. The problem for most Amer-ican companies interested in acquiring a sporting portfolio is that they’ve been outbid by Russian oligarchs, Asian tycoons and oil-rich Arab countries when it comes to buying the top brand names in England.

“However, they now see the Scottish market as offering better value for money and just about everyone is up for grabs, including Celtic, Rangers, Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen.”

Lee’s company is a private investment firm which, in the last three years, has also bought Nice, who finished seventh in Ligue 1 in the season just ended, and Barnsley, who earned promotion to the Championship last month.

He and Conway are currently co-chairmen of the Yorkshire club and the Scottish financial consultant points out that Scottish clubs are prime targets for predatory hedge fund managers, including the biggest names in the game.

“They’ll be on the radar of Amer-ican businessmen and, while they might not be up for sale, nobody is until an offer is made,” he said.

“If you wanted to buy Celtic, you’d talk to Dermot Desmond. He’s the major shareholder and, while he’s a billionaire himself, he’s been involved at Parkhead for 25 years now and he’s closing in on 70 so the timing might be right for him.

“Similarly, Ann Budge at Hearts and Tom Farmer at Hibs are both in their 70s and could be persuaded to sell up. Aberdeen, with a new stadium on the horizon and a big catchment area, look ripe for the picking as well, especially with so many American companies in the area.

“Rangers have obvious potential to any investor but the biggest obstacle in their way is the stranglehold Mike Ashley has over their retail and merchandising divisions – they’ll be less attractive to potential buyers as long as that state of affairs exists.

“As for Thistle, I can see the sense in that deal. It gives these guys a low-cost entry into Scottish football in the sport’s biggest city and there are also real estate opportunities with the canal nearby.

“It might be that they’ll use Thistle as a feeder club for Nice and Barnsley but they will improve the club. These people don’t throw money around for the sake of it but they won’t just be looking to take Thistle back into the Premiership but into Europe.”