Filed: Tuesday, 11th April 2017
By: Paul Walker
West Ham were so quick to try to squash any newspaper story suggesting they are trying to find new investment. You just know there is more to it, donít you? So suggestions that our owners are searching for new investment are "utterly false" should be taken with a large pinch of salt.
Our owners, David Sullivan and David Gold are now traditionally hyper-sensitive about any suggestion that the end game of moving us to the Olympic Stadium was in any way their opportunity to cash in on an upwardly mobile club with a new stadium, vastly increased fan base and booming commercial expansion.
But what has surprised many is how quickly they have tried to discredit the Daily Express story suggesting they want to bring big business investment into the club. Surely Sullivan has been banging on about just this for a long time, right back to when we were still at the Boleyn.
But the problem they have got, if as they say they want to retain control of the club, is to find anyone from the Chinese/Abu Dhabi/Qatar/ Saudi level willing to give them buckets of cash but without control over how it is spent.
Frankly, our owners canít have it both ways. They are businessmen themselves, but at a far lower level than Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour at Chelsea and Manchester City respectively. Even the Glaziers at Manchester United.
Gold and Sullivan are rich people, but not that rich and they know, deep down, they cannot compete on that scale. Which makes the loud and long boasts about Champions League qualification just so much hot air.
Now the Express has dusted down an old story with a new twist. I understand that it was not considered to be a real bombshell when it was written on Sunday, neither by the paper or the author. Just an update really.
The author of the piece is a personal friend of mine for more than 20 years. He does not make up stories, simple as that. If I had to back his word against our owners, thereís no doubt where I would stand. Tony Banks is a highly respected guy with good contracts and a lengthy career in what used to be called 'Fleet Street'.
These days when anyone in power, be it the President of the USA or our owners find a story they donít like much, it immediately gets labelled as 'false news'. Well they would say that, wouldnít they?
I have made a few of my own investigations and 'sources close to the situation'(I do love that expression, but havenít been able to use it for a while) suggest that information has come from inside the club and that this has been under-pinned by football finance experts in the City of London.
In effect, I believe that 'feelers have been put out recently to try to find people prepared to invest in West Ham'.
That, as has already been pointed out today by experienced observers of West Hamís board, is nothing new. Sullivan wants financial help and has never been slow in making that point in the past.
So why launch into a club website denial of this magnitude? The Express story did not say the owners wanted to sell up. It did not say the owners were willing to sell a controlling interest. It made it clear the owners wanted to be around for a long time.
Now I know that will have upset a few fans who would happily see the back of the Davids and Lady Karren, her of the heavily ladened Arsenal cheeseboard fame at the weekend. But the current owners want their cake (or cheese) and to eat it too.
Step forward any unsuspecting Middle East oil tycoon, or even a small country like Abu Dhabi, willing to give Gold and Sullivan money, but who donít want a control of the club. There is a very short queue forming there!
So lets hear no more of the quotes of the club website from Sullivan today saying the story is "utterly false and we have never once viewed West Ham as a short term project". We all know the second bit of that line is true, and from my own checks on the Express story, it is not "utterly false".
Everton and West Brom takeovers of late are, to my mind, the way our owners make have to go if they do really want serious outside investment to take us to the higher level we have all been promised.
Just why do you think so many fans, with doubts about leaving the Boleyn, reluctantly agreed to the reality of the move to Stratford? We believed that our owners could take us to that next level.
The Everton takeover is interesting for one thing, that our board and Karren Brady have been admirers of how Bill Kenwright has guided the Merseysiders into a regular top eight Premier League finish with a similar size stadium and revenue as we had at the Boleyn, and with a similar fan base.
Kenwright spent a decade looking for outside help. Now he has been seriously ill for a while, the time has come to step aside. He has sold 49.99 per cent of his shares to Iranian businessman Farhad Moshiri.
The rest of Evertonís 1,000-strong shareholding is in very small lots. Sometimes just one or two shares per person. Some have been lost, other owners have died. Some were even lost during the Second World War bombing of Liverpool.
So Moshiri, who sold a £200million stake in Arsenal to buy Everton, does not need an exact controlling interest. Kenwright, who is now de facto chairman in name only, will stay involved and may have a tiny holding himself.
Either way, it is believed that Moshiri has a 'shareholders' agreement' with the rest of the board to always work and vote in his favour. Now considering that Everton are going to have a much larger transfer pot (something West Ham will be very much aware of) and also a new ground in the old north docks, this suggests that everyone at Goodison Park is more than happy with Moshiriís involvement.
West Brom is not quit as transparent. Jeremy Peace has sold his 88 per cent shareholding to Chinese businessman Guochaun Lai for £175million, from the £1.8billion he is quoted as being worth on the Chinese stock exchange.
Peace has stepped down and former Blackburn chief executive John Williams, a highly respected operator in football circles, has taken over.
Lai, just like Mosheri, has controlling interest. That is what very rich people moving into football want and expect. If Gold and Sullivan want this level of outside investment, surely they know the only way to get it is to give up some control.
But they will continue looking. Continue putting out feelers through middle men and intermediaries. Maybe they will one day find what they are looking for. But any suggestion that they are going to sell, which is not what the Express said, is a very long shot - a long way off, if at all.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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