City chairman Alan Bowkett admitted that the club would be “very happy” to meet with Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes, after he was linked with possible investment in the Norfolk club.
Fernandes, who is the founder of airline AirAsia and current principal of Norfolk-based motor racing outfit Lotus F1, is an exciting figure given his track-record for “innovative ideas, flair and growing businesses as well as his passion for sport.”
The 45-year-old is not a stranger to English football either, having launched an unsuccessful takeover bid for West Ham United, with David Gold and David Sullivan finally bagging their boyhood club.
But Fernandes, who is said to be worth £400 million, is keen on a footballing project, and with the Norfolk connection with Lotus F1 and former sponsors Proton – who, like AirAsia, are based in Malaysia – City may tick a lot of boxes.
“I’d be very happy to meet Tony if he wants to talk to me about it,” said chairman Bowkett, speaking at last night’s relatively positive AGM, despite the debt hanging over the Carrow Road club.
“We have a high profile in Malaysia, which I know is where Tony manages his airline from, through our former sponsors Proton.
“We’d be happy to talk to him. We will be searching for new investment from Hong Kong to California and looking at alternative methods to improve revenues and reduce costs.
“We will look also look at restructuring our debt profile and asset sales where appropriate.”
What is clear is that with Bowkett and chief executive David McNally at the helm, the drive for fresh funds is as proactive as ever.
With the club £23 million in debt, it has to be. And McNally didn’t do anything to dampen the Fernandes flames either.
“Given the connection between Lotus, Norwich City and Norfolk and Tony’s love of sport, I’m sure that over the next few months, there will be some conversations with Tony about how we can work together,” he said on Sky Sports News.
Fernandes clearly has a passion for sport and his ambition of investing in a football club was demonstrated by his recent comments following the failed Hammers bid.
He wanted outright control of the east London club – not exactly the actions of someone who isn’t in it for the long-haul.
“I see West Ham as the unpolished diamond of the Premier League,” he told the Daily Telegraph recently.
“It should be a larger and more successful club than it is and so, when the chance came around again to buy it, I felt I could do it and fulfil an ambition.
“I would have completely re-financed the club so that it did not have to sell on its young talent again. To do that I would have needed to get to grips with the balance sheet but I could not do that by working with a bank that was effectively in liquidation.
“I put forward a very detailed plan and explained why I needed 100 per cent control. But we just ran out of time.
“Straumur (the previous owners) said they had to sell on that day [Monday] but we needed another five or six hours. I thought we had done it.
“If you were buying another club, for example, it would be more straight-forward. You would put in your bid, do the due diligence and complete the deal.
“With West Ham there was Straumur to deal with, who are working under Chapter 11 receivership, and you have a bunch of banks. The owners were bankrupt and the asset itself was, really, insolvent.
“There were the owners, the people who own the owners, and the banks,” continued the Malaysian businessman.
“It therefore became evident to me, having started with a negotiation over taking 50 per cent, that the only way to make the club successful would be to gain 100 per cent.
“Otherwise it was too complicated.”