As I’ve continually said during this process, the amount of actual facts remain thin on the ground and we’re still in a position where rumour holds sway.
This makes it really hard for me to write these kinds of pieces, because I’m not a fan of speculation. I’ve tried my hardest to speak to multiple people to get some sort of consensus viewpoint, but I still think it’s important for people to be sceptical when it comes to speculation and opinion, including my own.
Do we know anything more officially since the HKSE announcement?
While there has not been any further announcement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, there has been one official piece of information that has come out in the last few days that confirms the current position of the shareholding.
It’s not really well known, but every club in the EFL has to publish the identities of the ultimate owner of the club under EFL Regulation 113.
Blues have their shareholder breakdown linked from the board management part of their website, with the document outlining the full breakdown of major shareholders linked here.
What is interesting here is that the last update to this form was made last Thursday – June 23.
At first I couldn’t see any changes to the previous breakdown (which I have uploaded here for the reader to compare), but having looked closely I can see that some percentages have changed; something which happened after the loans owed by Birmingham Sports Holdings to Join Surplus International and Global Mineral Resources Holdings Ltd in January 2021.
Those percentage changes aside, the new document from June 23 is interesting for two reasons.
Firstly, the document confirms that as of last Thursday, Vong Pech still owns 21.64% of Birmingham City plc via his Oriental Rainbow Investments vehicle. The last HKSE announcement confirmed that Vong Pech had agreed to sell this stake, but clearly this has not gone through.
Secondly, while the document confirms that Dragon Villa Limited owns 17.08% of Birmingham Sports Holdings, it only confirms that the company is controlled by Lei Sutong. It does not mention anything about Wang Yaohui (aka the elusive Mr King) being the ultimate beneficial owner of that company as reported by Radio Free Asia at the end of May.
When I asked the club what prompted them to update this document, I was told that around this time in the calendar each season the club re-submit this information to the EFL.
I’m going to say here and now, I don’t believe this.
The main reason I don’t believe this is because if this was the case, the error in the percentages should have been picked up last summer when details were re-submitted.
After all, It seems awfully coincidental that Blues have uploaded new information at around the same time there is talk of an EFL investigation into the Dragon Villa / Wang Yaohui situation.
I do wonder how much more the EFL are going to push this investigation. While I understand that the EFL do not have the ability to conduct deep investigations, I also wonder how bad it’s going to look for them if more comes out of Hong Kong from investigations being conducted by the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong and the Securities and Futures Commission out there.
What happens if June 30 passes without any kind of announcement?
Even though Bassini made this pronouncement of a deadline of June 30, I don’t think much will happen if it doesn’t go through.
If I’m brutally honest, I don’t think it can go through that quickly now.
From people I’ve spoken to, the EFL have yet to receive any information on this takeover from any parties involved to start their processes.
As much as the Owners and Directors Test is maligned, the impression I get from people who know better than I is that the test won’t be done quickly.
The EFL will be very aware that Birmingham City currently has a situation where there is information that conclusively proves at least part of the club is subject to a shadow owner; I suspect that they will want to make absolutely sure that any takeover that goes through does not prolong that problem.
Likewise, while Laurence Bassini’s ban from owning a club has long since expired, I can’t imagine he’s made may fans at the EFL due to his involvement with protracted non-completing takeovers at both Bolton Wanderers and Charlton Athletic. Bassini’s public pronouncements not only recently but during those affairs won’t have pleased the EFL either.
I accept that the EFL have to be objective in their testing and cannot fail someone because they just don’t like them. However, there is nothing to stop them dragging their heels in an effort to ensure everything is absolutely above board and watertight.
After Bassini’s pronouncement that he is being funded by a loan from David Sullivan (a claim he also made when trying to buy Bolton Wanderers), the EFL will want to ensure that there is zero conflict of interest there.
That would probably also preclude the involvement of someone like Jack Sullivan too in the same way the EFL blocked the appointment of Carson Yeung’s common-law spouse Joanna Wang Manli as director of what was then Birmingham International Holdings due to Yeung’s conviction for money laundering.
Any delay in a takeover isn’t good for the short-term prognosis at St Andrew’s.
Players are now fully back for pre-season training and Lee Bowyer will want to start making a move on bringing in new players.
Likewise, the window of time to get repair work started on the stadium is shrinking and I’m sure there comes a point where work can’t be started as there isn’t enough time due to the football season restarting.
What this means for me is that the board of the club and BSH need to accept that nothing is happening in the short term and that some investment from them into the club now has to be made regardless of any impending takeover. If they’re smart enough and agreeable enough they’ll come up with something where they get the money back anyway from a buyer.
While there are people out there cheerleading the arrival of Bassini, I think right now a more circumspect viewpoint is needed. People got over excited in May at the thought of a takeover and now two months have virtually passed.
I do not believe it is fair for fans to continually have their hopes raised; especially when some individuals are doing it for what seems like social media clout.
The time to celebrate a takeover is when the deal is done and the new owners are installed. Any time before then is just premature.