BCFC: What Happens Now With The Takeover?

It’s been almost a week now since Laurence Bassini went on TalkSPORT to talk about buying Birmingham City, and I think I’ve only just caught my breath from it. I’ve said all along that Bassini is a fantasist who shouldn’t be entertained when it comes to buying a football club, but even I didn’t expect him to blow up so spectacularly live on national radio.

Birmingham City FC

There’s no point recapping or rehashing what was eleven minutes of sheer madness; or for that matter the short video epilogue we got last Friday night from the back of an Uber.

It’s all done now and so I suspect is Bassini; I think even TalkSPORT know that accepting him as a guest for a third time in this saga would be overkill. No doubt he’ll slink off back under a rock until another chance to be a saviour to a failing club comes around – hopefully next time people will know to ignore him.

But where does it all leave Blues?

It’s been a week without takeover news, barring the odd tweet from James Nursey.

I’m going to say up front that I cannot promise any exclusives (or even good news), but I can share the bits and pieces I’ve found out in the last couple of weeks.

Are Blues still up for sale?

The immediate bad news I have for those hoping for a takeover is that as far as I can tell from speaking to my contacts out in Hong Kong and Cambodia, the club isn’t up for sale.

However, I’m going to qualify that statement by adding my contacts out in the Far East have never believed that the club was up for sale.

I’ve been loathe to believe that over the past two or three months because I had to be hopeful of better things, but what I was told back in May by people out east appears to be absolutely true; that Birmingham Sports Holdings were only ever looking for an investor to replace Oriental Rainbow Investments.

If one thinks about it, this is exactly what BSH said in the voluntary announcement they made to the HKSE; that while Vong Pech had agreed to sell his stake, BSH had not entered into negotiations for their 75% stake in the club.

At the time I thought they were being cute with their wording but it now looks like they were actually just being honest and straightforward – whoda thunk it?

Of course, when that statement came out, the assumption here was that the 21.64% stake in Birmingham City plc had been sold to a consortium linked to Keith Harris.

Yet I think we’ve all been played for suckers.

While we all (including me) assumed the only two players potentially in for the stake were over here, it now looks like there was at least one other Far Eastern bidder in play.

There’s a credible rumour in Hong Kong that Harris was properly played for a fool, so that BSH could use the offer made by Harris to go back to the bidder out there and force the price up a bit further.

While nothing has been announced, my friends in Cambodia have mentioned in the last week that Vong Pech has managed to pay up US$5m of outstanding debt to people chasing him, giving him a bit of breathing room.

That could mean that a deal has gone through already and Vong Pech has banked the money; however it could also mean Vong Pech has found another source of cash and doesn’t need to sell his stake.

Until something is announced publicly, we won’t know for sure what has happened.

The HKSE have confirmed receiving my third complaint on the subject but as no announcement has been forthcoming in the last few days I think my complaint is going to end up in the bin again.

If there is a change in ownership of that 21.64% stake in Birmingham City plc then the EFL will have to be notified and whoever the new owner is will have to take the Owners and Directors Test (OADT).

While the EFL aren’t exactly public with this sort of stuff, Blues will have to update their shareholding page once it’s gone through; although as we’ve seen recently, that can fall between the cracks too.

If that happens, then the first I think we will potentially know is when the BSH accounts for the year ending June 30, 2022 come out at the end of September – but even that’s not a guarantee.

Why are the authorities not doing anything about the Blues ownership issues?

One of the big questions I get on social media and forums is why the “authorities” don’t seem to take any action despite the damning evidence that has been found linking Wang Yaohui to Birmingham City.

It’s a fair question; every time a new article comes out like this piece from my friend Jack Adamovic Davies of Radio Free Asia, it’s just more proof of the absolute control Wang Yaohui has over both BSH and the club.

I think that there are a few reasons why it feels like the authorities aren’t doing much.

The main reasons are the time and resources required.

I’ve mentioned in the past that the EFL doesn’t really have the resources to properly do any kind of investigation or due diligence into owners of football clubs.

Sadly, I don’t think pressure from fans works on them either, judging by the amount of times they have fobbed my enquiries and emails off.

I’m not sure about the levels of resources the Hong Kong Stock Exchange have to look into complaints, but I do get a feeling that sometimes there is a lack of desire.

It’s not until there is an absolutely blatant breach of the rules that they spring into action. A good example of this was the time Peter Pannu had a few glasses of red wine and thought that it might be a good idea to post sensitive internal information as a comment on a Birmingham City blog, using a computer inside the offices of Birmingham Sports Holdings.

The good news is when that sort of things happen, all of a sudden their laissez-faire attitude changes 180 degrees and the questions get very hard, very quickly; the bad news is that their investigations can take literally years.

Then there is the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC). The Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong is the independent statutory body charged with regulating the securities and futures markets in Hong Kong; the enforcers of the HKSE as it were.

Again, I don’t know much about their resources but I have been told that the SFC have a big bee in their bonnet about non-disclosed beneficial owners, particularly when these people are hiding behind proxies so that they don’t go above 30% shareholding, where they would normally be forced to make a mandatory general offer for all shares.

Wang Yaohui definitely rings those alarm bells, as Adamovic Davies points out in his RFA article, Wang controls over 50% of BSH via a number of companies.

While I do know that the SFC have been made aware of this and are looking into it, the length of time they take to take action is anybody’s guess.

I understand that none of that fills many with confidence, particularly the more cynical Blues fans out there.

The question now is if it is the time to properly pursue those lines of action and using whatever leverage that can be used to force action to be expedited; be it something like finding other disgruntled shareholders in Hong Kong to join forces with or even trying to find political help here to shine a brighter light on the issues.

The biggest point that people should realise is that action from those authorities isn’t necessarily what is needed; if the threat of action is strong enough then that may back Wang et al into enough of a corner to encourage them to sell up at a reasonable cost in a reasonable way.

I know that there would be bidders interested if that was the case; it’s just manoeuvring BSH into that position.

For now, we have to accept in the short term nothing is going to change.

The club will continue to be pushed to be as self-sufficient as possible – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself – and I think the stadium repairs will be left until they are forced to do otherwise.

Contrary to the tweets of May and June, it’s not all over.

But that doesn’t mean that we should lose hope, and it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight for our club.