Tony Fernandes emerges as clear favourite to take over West Ham
Tony Fernandes has emerged as the clear favourite to take control of West Ham United. The Malaysian entrepreneur is hoping to fly to London on Wednesday to conclude a deal and would be a popular owner of the Premier League club.
Intensive talks have taken place for the past two days with the five banks who have loaned money to West Ham — in a refinancing deal that was agreed last autumn — and who have met Fernandes representatives and representatives of the former Birmingham City co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold.
A third party, the Intermarket Group, has continued to register its interest in buying West Ham and although it has not been ruled out it has struggled to prove it has the necessary funding.
Fernandes has not been at the meetings for the past two days but was, it is understood, involved in a detailed conference call on Tuesday with Rothschild, who have been appointed to handle potential investors, and a possible takeover, by CB Holdings, the company that owns West Ham. Also involved in the calls were Sullivan and Gold and the five banks – Glitnir, Standard Bank, Lloyds-TSB, Royal Bank of Scotland and Straumur, who negotiated the £30m of debt last autumn.
On Monday Sullivan and Fernandes presented their separate plans to take control of West Ham with the banks then going away and returning to the table on Tuesday to discuss whether they found the plans acceptable and whether they would agree to a change of ownership. The banks have the power of veto.
The terms under which the club’s debt was renegotiated have, it is also understood, been a sticking point with the banks insisting that they begin to see a greater return for their money. Fernandes, in particular, however has explained that he will not countenance a fire sale of the club’s players while it is also understood that manager Gianfranco Zola is fully supportive of his bid and would prefer to see the entrepreneur take charge than Sullivan.
Both parties have carried out due diligence into West Ham. The problem for the club, who are fighting a relegation battle, is that until a resolution is found to their finances and ownership there is little prospect of any transfer deals being concluded.
At present Zola has to sell before he can buy although, it is hoped, that will change if a new owner is brought in who can achieve greater stability. Time is of the essence, with the transfer window closing at the end of this month. It may be that a deal is not concluded until the middle of next week although if a resolution is found today it may mean that the club can begin to move forward.
Fernandes would be a committed, driven owner of West Ham and is believed to have drawn up exciting plans for the club’s future. However he will also not make any rash promises and wants the club to grow sensibly with the right investment.