West Ham owner David Sullivan is funding a proposed £35million takeover of Birmingham City that could see him regain control at St Andrew’s if the club’s prospective buyer Laurence Bassini fails to repay the loan.
Sportsmail can reveal that Sullivan’s investment company, Rickleford Limited, have agreed to loan Bassini £33m to buy City from Hong Kong-based owners Birmingham Sports Holdings, who want to sell and are mulling over numerous offers.
Sullivan’s loan offer makes clear he would take control of ‘the property assets of the club’ in the event of a default, raising the prospect of him regaining control of Birmingham 13 years after selling to Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung for £81.5m.
West Ham owner David Sullivan is funding a proposed £35million takeover of Birmingham City
Sullivan’s company, Rickleford Limited, have agreed to loan Laurence Bassini (middle) £33m
Sullivan confirmed to Sportsmail that he had arranged loans for Bassini on a number of investments, but declined to comment on the details of the Birmingham bid. Bassini also declined to comment.
Sullivan’s role in the Bassini offer for Birmingham came as a surprise to the EFL when they were contacted by Sportsmail on Tuesday and may complicate the sale process.
Given the possibility of Sullivan ultimately taking control, any purchase agreed by the EFL would also have to be signed off by the FA – as West Ham and Birmingham both compete in the FA Cup.
The Premier League may also be asked for their views as both clubs could be in the top flight in the future.
Sullivan sold Birmingham 13 years ago to Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung for £81.5m
Under FA and Premier League rules an owner or shareholder is not permitted to have more than a 30 per cent stake in clubs competing in the same competition.
Bassini has been in negotiations with Birmingham’s owners since the end of last year, having failed in previous takeover attempts at Bolton, Charlton and Oxford over the last few years.
The 52-year-old – who spent one year as Watford chairman before selling to the Pozzo family in 2012 – has a colourful history, having twice been declared bankrupt and forced to serve a three-year ban from EFL ownership after an independent commission ruled that he had been ‘dishonest with the League and his fellow directors’.
Bassini is battling with several groups to buy Birmingham, including a consortium led by former Barcelona striker Maxi Lopez and Blues fan Paul Richardson, who both attended the club’s final game of the season against Blackburn last weekend.
Any purchase agreed by the EFL would also have to be signed off by the FA given Sullivan’s involvement in running West Ham United (pictured centre: FA CEO Mark Bullingham)
The sale is being handled by financier Keith Harris, who has previously brokered takeovers at Manchester City, Aston Villa and West Ham, although the latter predated Sullivan’s purchase of the club.
The EFL have yet to see details of any of the bids and are waiting for Birmingham to conclude the sale process.
Sullivan’s involvement in the Bassini bid will also raise questions over whether the latter has sufficient funding required to run a Championship club, as well as fuelling speculation about the future ownership of West Ham.
Sullivan and co-owner David Gold have earmarked next year as a potential date to sell the club as a clause in the London Stadium contract, requiring them to pay tens of millions in a windfall tax if they cash in, expires in March 2023.
An option for a full takeover of West Ham was also included when they sold 27 per cent of the club to Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky for £200m last year.
Sullivan and co-owner David Gold have earmarked 2023 as a potential date to sell West Ham