BCFC Takeover: Crypto, Chrysler and Consortiums

The takeover saga at Birmingham City took another twist on Monday morning with a report in the Daily Mail that “cryptocurrency businessman” Haydn Snape of the Dubai-based Decentralised Investment Group was a new backer within the Maxco consortium led by Maxi Lopez and Paul Richardson. This was followed by a further report from the Mirror that Snape was merely a conduit to American real estate magnate Michael Fuchs.

Birmingham City FC

With there being very little actual news on investors involved in the Maxco bid, having two lots of news drop like this meant for a busy morning on Blues message boards and social media.

Although somewhat short on detail, the Mail article claimed that 30-year-old Snape “had assumed a role within the Maxco consortium in a bid to push the deal through.”

It went on to state that:

Sources close to the negotiations claim that Snape’s injection should hasten the process and make sure the Blues secure new ownership.

James Nursey offered a slightly different explanation of this news in the Mirror, which stated that Paul Richardson had been in talks with Snape regarding his company Ultimate Fantasy Metaverse (UFM) being a shirt sponsor for Blues.

Richardson is directly quoted by the Mirror as saying that

“He [Snape] knows Michael Fuchs who has a company called RFR Holdings and has agreed to introduce us. We get approached on a regular basis because Birmingham City has potential to be a very big club.”

With the two stories being somewhat at odds with each other, I have put together this article to try to offer a more coherent answer on what is going on.

Haydn Snape

I wasn’t that surprised that this story surrounding Snape being connected to a takeover of Blues broke this morning.

It may sound like a typical journalist cliché, but I had heard the story last week as it was being shopped around to various journalists and I had already done some initial work on looking into who Snape is.

Before I say anything further, I’m going to be upfront and declare my own bias against the whole cryptocurrency and NFT business model. I’ve read too many stories of NFT companies creating hype only to fall to dust to have faith in companies within that sector.

Only last week there was a thread on twitter about a crypto project of BCFC sponsors Ultimo.gg collapsing, which will have caused massive losses to any Blues fans who invested in it.

With this in mind, I am always going to be sceptical of any involvement by Snape or his companies and Blues, and I ask that you take my inherent bias into account when making your own judgement of what is happening.

A quick google search of Haydn’s details will show you lots of hype and interest in his current project, Decentralised Investment Group (DIG).

DIG appears to be an umbrella group over various projects within the crypto and Metaverse sectors, although I have not been able to find a link between DIG and UFM mentioned above.

I’ve also yet to find any evidence of Snape making a fortune from crypto.

I did find a press release on Newswire from November 2018 about Snape’s former company SSG Management hiring Alexander Lempka as Chief Sales Officer.

The press release talked about SSG raising in excess of $50M from global campaigns and inbound strategies; however a check of Companies House showed that SSG Management had only been founded four months prior to that news release and their accounts don’t suggest they earned huge amounts of money before that company was dissolved.

SSG Management were described as “crypto veterans” by this piece on Yahoo Finance in June 2021 when they partnered with a Crypto-gaming start up called Kooopa. The article – another press release – hyped the connection up as something that “if successful, will be a true revolution”.

Within two months of that article, SSG Management applied to have the company struck off the register;the company was dissolved in November 2021.

I asked Haydn Snape directly by email what reassurance he could give to Blues fans about the security of his companies based on the dissolution of various companies of his in England, especially when things like the ultimo.gg sponsorship issue have happened so recently.

Snape told me that:

Re previous companies being dissolved in the UK, I’m an entrepreneur and 30 years of age, it’s the nature of the game. My company DIG is licensed in Dubai and Bahamas with relevant industry authorities and has no insolvencies, debts or bankruptcies. We’ve also got a solid track record in the web3 space, but unfortunately that doesn’t make you immune to people on the internet with personal vendettas because their tokens went down in value in what is a cyclical market (I mention this as following today’s reports of my involvement that side of the business has been rearing its ugly head).

On Twitter, former ITV and Sky journalist Chris Skudder has tweeted details of an interview he conducted with Snape. As part of the thread, Skudder tweeted:

additional caveats also sure to complicate/slow EFL scrutiny. Interestingly says has already taken OADT. As for allegations made against him in other crypto currency dealings, Snape rejects criticism. Describes accusations as ‘hysterical reactions’ 6/6

Skudder also tweeted that Snape is a Blues fan, having got into the club in the early noughties when his dad started taking him to the games.

Snape confirmed that was a Blues fan to me too, saying he first went to St Andrews around 2002.

Michael Fuchs

The emergence of the Michael Fuchs angle has changed the story somewhat, and one of the things I wanted to do when I emailed Haydn Snape was to try and make sense of two somewhat contradictory articles.

I asked Snape if he could confirm what role he would take within the consortium and what level of funds he would likely inject as per the Mail article, or if the Mirror article was an accurate portrayal of his connection to the Maxco consortium.

Snape confirmed that any talk of him taking a role within the Maxco consortium role was premature, and that he was in talks with Paul Richardson. He went on to confirm that the deal he was exploring was

where I structure investment and financing with my partners in the US. If we were able to get a deal done, then yes I would assume a role in the current consortium and club.

Snape went onto confirm the sponsor story, saying that

Re sponsorship, yes we’re in talks for UFM to be Blues FOS sponsor for the next 3 years. I am an investor in the project (https://theufm.com/). UFM is close to signing 20 of the biggest names in football, and have a target list of 500+. Once these are announced I’m sure Blues fans will be reassured of the credibility of the brand.

He also confirmed the Fuchs connection, stating that

Michael is a personal friend, and I’ve shared details of the deal with him. If I can structure something that makes sense for him then yes he would be a part of it and potentially sit on the Blues board. But this isn’t a transaction, I’ve not made an introduction between Michael and Maxco. If Michael is to be involved it would be based on a deal I structure.

In the interests of balance, I put these answers to Paul Richardson for his side of the story. Richarsson confirmed that the details of Snape being a potential Blues sponsor along with being a conduit to other investors was broadly correct. Richardson went on to confirm to me that talks between Maxco and Michael Fuchs had yet to take place.

With that in mind, I think it’s important as fans we remain circumspect regarding any possibility of Fuchs being involved until we know further.

One thing I did raise with Richardson is that bearing in mind he told us on the Kop car park back in July the deal was only 2-3 weeks away, it was somewhat concerning that he was still meeting with investors now four months on with no deal done.

Richardson made it clear to me his belief that the deal could go ahead without any funding from Fuchs, but that it made sense to talk to additional interested investors to help take the club forwards.

What this all means

While it’s caused a lot of talk online, I’m not sure we’re any further forward today with the takeover than we were on Sunday evening.

It seems clear to me that Snape is positioning himself as a conduit to investors, which is all well and good but until one comes online, I have to be sceptical as to who he can bring on board. My experience in talking to people regarding football ownership over the years has left me utterly cynical about anyone who claims to be an intermediary.

The impression I get from Richardson following this conversation has changed somewhat though.

It does seem that he understands his own financial limitations with regards to the club; it feels like Richardson sees himself as the person who is doing the “dirty work” to take the club on from the current owners in order that other people can come onboard and take it on further.

I will be honest; as sceptical as I have been (and continue to be) about the Maxco consortium bid, I find it hard to argue with Richardson’s stated intentions given above.

My impression is that Richardson understands the mess the club has been in and that he wants to “clean it up” and to make the club more sustainable; although how and if that is achievable, I am personally unsure.

Needless to say, the ball remains firmly in the EFL’s court for now. Until the EFL make an announcement confirming their approval, this takeover remains very much in limbo.