Outgoing Birmingham City owners David Sullivan and David Gold – recently linked with a possible takeover at Norwich City – have reportedly stalled on plans to purchase West Ham United.
With the duo handing over the reins at St Andrews to Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung in an £80million takeover, Sullivan in particular has confirmed his desire to return to football at the earliest opportunity.
The Irons are said to be at the top of their wanted list – which is thought to also include the Canaries – but the east London club’s crippling debts are said to be a stumbling block.
The Essex-based duo both have strong links to the club, with Gold a former Hammers youth player, and owners CB Holdings, an off-shoot of Icelandic bank Straumur, which took over after the collapse of Landsbanki, are willing to sell.
Outgoing Blues CEO Karren Brady, who has worked with the pair so closely, also said: “They’re a great club and David Sullivan and David Gold are Hammers bred, so who knows.”
But according to sources, pornography magnate Sullivan will only be interested in the Hammers if they can acquire the club for a knockdown price – due to the mounting debts.
And Brady, who will take up a full-time role on Alan Sugar’s BBC Show The Apprentice, hinted the same…
“The two Davids have been linked with an Upton Park takeover, but under West Ham’s present financial arrangements that would be madness.”
This weekend, the Daily Mirror reported that West Ham owed:
• £45million to several different banks
• £19m to Sheffield United over the out-of-court settlement for the Carlos Tevez affair.
• £15m to other clubs after signing various players from them.
Also, in what makes grim reading for any Hammers fan, the Upton Park club are operating at a loss of £20m this year after recording an operating loss of £33.6m for the financial year ending May 2008.
And this is where the Canaries could come into play – along with Ipswich, Cardiff, Leicester and Charlton according the the Mirror.
While the Norfolk club do have significant debt, it is not on the scale of West Ham’s and City have always maintained it is within a completely manageable structure.
With majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones clearly stating in recent years that they are willing to step aside for the right people, it is not thought they will try to achieve an unrealistic sale figure.
To add further intrigue, it is known within football circles that the Smiths enjoy an excellent relationship with Gold.
The former Blues chairman was initially expected to stay on in the west midlands but he turned down a vice-president role – meaning he’ll now join Sullivan in the search for another club.
“We have a lot of respect for David Gold and the excellent job he has done for the football club,” said Yeung’s representative Peter Pannu, speaking to the Birmingham Mail.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t offer him the position of chairman which is what he wanted. Vico Hui is to come in as chairman.
“Regrettably our offer to David Gold to become a vice-president has been turned down so we were not able to come to a suitable agreement.”