It’s fair to say the BCFC social media sphere is aflame with people questioning if a takeover is happening.
Some are openly shouting from the rooftops it’s done and it’s going to happen; others are questioning the truth and demanding to know sources.
I decided about a week ago that I needed to collate all the info I have from people who have contacted me about takeovers, and to put what I can onto my website to try to bring some realism into the conversation.
However, before I get into this piece, I want to make a couple of things clear due to some misconceptions I’ve seen spouted on Twitter about me and this website.
I am not involved in any bid to buy the club, nor am I employed by anybody looking to buy it.
I do however receive money for advertisements on this website – both from Google and from people who have bought space, and I’m grateful that I receive donations from people who contribute via ko-fi, Patreon and other methods.
Thanks to these donations I’m able to do things like go to Cambodia to investigate the ownership, as well as buy the myriad of documents I have both online and in paper form.
The truth is, I don’t want to be involved in any takeover bids. The people who contact me for help generally want my expertise and knowledge for free; and those who would pay for it don’t need it.
Last week the Mirror published a story about a consortium led by former Argentine forward Maxi Lopez looking to bid for Birmingham City. Those of you with a good memory will remember that I wrote about it myself in February, and at that time dismissed it as not happening.
Since then, I have twice been contacted by people with knowledge of the bid, including one who confirmed that I could go on the record about the finer detail of what they think will happen.
My source told me that as well as three people mentioned in the previous article – Lopez, Christian Codoma and Sammy Yu, Birmingham businessman Paul Richardson was part of the consortium.
Richardson has been involved in takeover bids before – notably in 2015 when Birmingham Sports Holdings went into Receivership, and he is currently owner and executive chairman of HERA clothing as well as formerly being executive director of Gymshark.
As has been reported elsewhere, Lopez’s consortium are not looking to purchase the entirety of Birmingham City plc in one go.
Their plan is to buy the 21.64% stake owned by Oriental Rainbow Investments first, before completing the purchase of the remaining 75% stake in Birmingham City plc owned by BSH.
The total purchase price for the club would be around £34m.
The source told me that the figures for each slice of the club to be purchased have already been agreed with BSH, but there would need to be some due diligence done before the larger portion was done to ensure all was correct. That deal would also have to be ratified by the HKSE and by BSH shareholders.
The Lopez consortium would also look to place someone on the BCFC board once the first part of the club was bought, to work on running the club and getting the stadium fixed. That appointee would need to pass the Owners and Directors Test implemented by the EFL, and their appointment would also need to be agreed with BSH.
As part of the deal, the consortium would purchase the stadium with the initial 21.64% in order to expedite plans to repair the lower Tilton and Kop, which they have budgeted £3-5m for. This would be done within the next couple of weeks or so.
My source advised me to reach this agreement with the current owners, a £1m non-refundable deposit had to be lodged with them before talks could begin.
As you can imagine, this is a lot to take in and there is a lot of it that makes the bid look legitimate.
Buying the initial stake up front would not require the deal to get shareholder approval; however as part of the deal would see ORI cancel a £22m debt owed by the club, it would need to be announced to the HKSE.
I’ve also heard rumours from the far east that BSH have been looking to move Vong Pech out of the ownership bubble as it were. My impression is that the issues Vong Pech has in Cambodia has made him a less favourable partner, and with the Cambodian investment not making any money it’s only the value of the land that keeps him involved.
The deal makes for a sensible way out, which gives BSH time to work out how to disengage fully from BCFC while the club can start to progress away from the millstone of the HKSE listing.
However, we’ve seen before how two-tranche deals can go awry.
When Carson initially purchased a stake in BCFC in 2007 it was with the intention to buy the remainder within three months. That never happened – and Carson’s attempts to get someone on the board were openly laughed at by the regime at the time.
I’m concerned that in this case if the first part goes through, whether BSH or the elusive Mr King aka Wang Yaohui will be happy to let control of the club go by allowing Maxi Lopez to appoint his own man to run it.
Likewise, I’m always wary when it comes to consortiums that they’ll have the money to pay for the second half of the deal, and that they’re not reliant on outside investment or worse loans to do so.
Needless to say, we won’t have to wait long to find out if this has legs – if there is no stock exchange announcement forthcoming, no deal has been done.
The other bidder who seems to be out in the open is Laurence Bassini, who has been referred to more than once in the past as “Bankrupt Baz”.
Both people who I spoke to about the Lopez bid referred to their concerns about a second bid on the table, being fronted by Bassini and a lawyer, Chris Farnell.
I know considerably less about this bid, but what I do know makes me think they have nothing to worry about realistically.
I received an email last week from someone purporting to be connected to the bid, who advised me that lawyers for BCFC and Vong Pech along with Chris Farnell had signed a letter of intent to buy the club, with Bassini paying a £3m non-refundable deposit to access the data room, with the intention of buying the club for £35m on May 15.
The email goes on to say that the money to buy Blues had come to Bassini from David Sullivan, citing an old news article which quoted Bassini as saying he’d been loaned money to buy Bolton Wanderers.
Now if I believed there was any truth in this I would be worried, but in all honesty I think there is more bovine excrement in that email than the average dairy farm.
If a LOI had been signed, then it would have had to have been reported to the HKSE – which it hasn’t – and shareholder approval would absolutely be required as would HKSE and EFL approval. As poor as the OADT is, I cannot see Bankrupt Baz passing it.
Bassini has past form for this; coming out with a load of legalese sounding words coupled with fantasist conjecture that he’s about to do the deal – just ask Bolton fans. He didn’t get anywhere that time and he’s not going to this time.
The bizarre thing in all this is that I believe that neither of those bids relate to the information put out there from Craig Gardner.
I can’t say I know much more about that bid other than I believe it involves Keith Harris – and the fact there is less information out there would actually be a positive thing.
There is a lot of gossip on Twitter though, and much of it is based on ill-informed knowledge among other things.
Anybody looking to buy the club is going to have to get past that initial £1m deposit to even speak to the owners, which I think most reasonable people would baulk at.
Assuming that they were able to put together a bid package that the owners were agreeable to, then at that point it would need to be announced to the HKSE, so that the legal process there could be followed.
What that means in reality is that no matter how much anyone goes on about happy times coming, until that stock exchange announcement is made it’s hard to believe it.
However, for the first time in a long time I think it’s possible there could be movement with regard to selling the club.
Following last week’s report on the money issues Wang Yaohui is suffering in Beijing, there was a new report out in the Chinese language press yesterday confirming China and Cambodia are ramping up efforts to pursue any Chinese national who has taken a Cambodian passport for nefarious reasons.
Without going into what nefarious reasons they could be, what that announcement has done is given China another excuse to grab people it considers persona non grata from Cambodia. That absolutely means Wang Yaohui is probably cut off from Cambodia now and could spell trouble for Vong Pech too.
With other things happening in other jurisdictions I’m not currently able to report on, I get the impression the house of cards might finally be falling.
The hope has to be that the sale of the club is done before the cards hit the floor – and that the sale isn’t a case of the club jumping from the frying pan into the fire.