It’s somewhat difficult to talk about any takeover of Birmingham City without going into the realms of speculation.
The only official notice we’ve been given doesn’t tell us who Vong Pech has agreed to sell to – or for that matter, exactly what he has agreed to sell.
As that statement only came from Birmingham Sports Holdings after two complaints submitted to the HKSE about the lack of clarifying announcements, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that getting more information is going to be like pulling teeth.
BSH are only going to give it up when they are absolutely forced to.
With the caveat firmly in place that speculation should be treated with scepticism and that until official information comes out nothing is certain, I wanted to try to shed some light on just what is going on.
Is Laurence Bassini buying the club?
While it can be safely assumed that Laurence Bassini is the person Vong Pech has reached an agreement with (based on statements made by both Bassini and Paul Richardson in recent times), I think there is still some considerable doubt whether the deal will go through at all.
It was reported in the Birmingham Mail on Monday June 20 that Laurence Bassini has said there is a deadline of June 30 finalise the purchase.
While I have no doubt that Brian Dick has reported everything he possibly can from any conversation he has had with Bassini, I can’t help but think this talk of a deadline doesn’t actually tell us much.
We don’t actually know what remains to be done to “finalise the deal”.
It’s almost certain that there is regulatory approval to be sought from the EFL at least, if not the HKSE as well.
It could be that the “second part” of the deal which sets up how the remainder of the club is bought needs to be finalised.
It might even be that Bassini has to cough up the first pile of dough by the end of the month.
Unsurprisingly, having followed Bassini trying to buy clubs before money appears to be something of an issue at this moment.
I have heard from two completely separate sources that there is a regulatory issue with regards to the funding of Bassini by David Sullivan.
It’s impossible to verify this completely as the EFL do not comment on anything, but the story goes that the EFL are not happy with the potential conflict of interest caused by Sullivan funding Bassini’s purchase of BCFC via a loan, and that now both Bassini and Harris are trying to find alternative sources of funding.
I’ve already stated in the past my inherent bias against Bassini, and if I’m honest I don’t hold Keith Harris in high regard either.
With this in mind, it’s not hard to understand my scepticism surrounding this deal, and why it’s my feeling that if it is true the EFL have told Bassini he cannot use Sullivan to loan money, then this bid is doomed to failure.
Lopez / Richardson to the rescue?
Naturally, with only two prominent bids in the press, should the Bassini bid fail then the expectation will fall on the Lopez / Richardson consortium to complete the deal.
While the news in the Argentine press has been bullish about Lopez’ chances, Paul Richardson has been much less positive of late.
The lack of response to the offer made by the Lopez / Richardson consortium has made the former Blues director realise that the ball is very much in Bassini’s court.
If I was Richardson, I’d be concerned that there was a complete lack of response to an offer, and I’d be trying to rationalise why that is.
Is it because BSH are only negotiating with one bidder at a time, and thus will come to him if Bassini fails?
Or is it because BSH have no intention of selling to him for some unidentified reason?
I can’t say that I know the reason why, but again it’s my feeling (as it has been throughout) that Lopez / Richardson are doomed to failure.
To complete the deal a consortium not only has to pony up the money for the club (said to be about £35m), but also show that there is funding for the next 12 months on the table – which would be another £30m on top.
Not only that; but that money would pretty much only be good enough to maintain the status quo.
To make investments in the team, stadium and academy is going to be more money on top of that £65m.
I have to admit I doubt very much that Lopez / Richardson have that money available, simply because I think if they did they’d have already forced the deal through.
After all, money talks and bullshit walks.
Does this mean Blues are doomed?
This is where I think that the good news comes in; the long term good news anyway.
While I don’t think a straight up deal for 100% of the club could be done right now, it’s my belief that the collapse of the deal on the table will only bring the issues BSH have into sharper focus.
It’s a statement of fact that Vong Pech needs money. He’s got all kinds of legal issues in Cambodia and he is currently trying to negotiate his way out of a US$16m debt (without success).
It’s also a statement of fact that Wang Yaohui (aka the elusive Mr King) is racking up the legal worries in jurisdictions around the world.
As I understand it there are currently legal issues (civil or criminal) for Wang in six different jurisdictions now – China, Cambodia, Singapore, Cyprus, Hong Kong and USA.
I’m well aware that I don’t know everything and that there could be more legal issues out there for Wang that I’m not aware of.
That doesn’t mean things are going to happen to Wang straight away. One only has to look back to the Carson Yeung saga to know that the legal system takes a while to get into gear.
That being said, it’s not a good situation for Wang to be in and I have no doubt that the pressure is massively on him right now.
There’s also a rumour that Paul Suen is short of funds too.
He’s had a rough year or two trading in stocks, making heavy losses on investments in companies like Playtech in London and the word is he needs some ready dosh too.
Put all of that together and there is a strong probability there that should this incredibly seller-friendly deal fall apart, BSH might have to negotiate with other parties on a less seller-friendly deal.
There is even a possibility things might get to the point where voluntary delisting is accepted as being better than the alternative. One only has to look at the trouble Tony Xia got in over the expressway to know that desperate times can call for desperate measures.
Assuming a better deal could be on the table down the pike, then that could be very good for us.
I know of at least four parties who have expressed an interest in the club in the past, and who are in all likelihood are still interested.
Again, I’m well aware that my knowledge is limited and I’m sure that if I know of four parties who are interested then it’s possible there are double or even treble that out there.
What that all means is this takeover isn’t a two horse race – and in all probability it might be for the best if neither of these current parties complete a deal which will see BCFC still tied to BSH for up to three years.
I fully understand why people might be desperate for a deal to be done; players have returned for testing and the squad looks even more painfully thin and imbalanced than it did last year.
We have a head coach who I think doesn’t want the job and isn’t wanted by the board – but it appears neither will budge because of the payout on the table for a sacking.
We also have a stadium that is continuing to stand in disrepair, with no one seemingly willing to invest the money needed to fix it to the condition it should be in.
Yet from a personal perspective, none of that worries me right now.
For me this takeover has to be right not for the next season, but for the next decade.
I’m willing to put up with some more short term pain personally if the longer term furture can be secured.
Otherwise, as I see it we’re just kicking the can down the road for another pile of takeover heartbreak.