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West Ham to be sold?

John Simkin

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Article in the Guardian:


The long-mooted sale of West Ham United took another step towards realisation last night as court documents filed in Iceland revealed that the owner, Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, values the Premier League club at around £250m and has made financial information available to up to five potential buyers.

Gudmundsson is under severe financial pressure following the collapse of the Icelandic bank Landsbanki, in which he had a 41% stake, and is seeking to restructure his existing assets as the recession takes its toll. A handful of interested groups have since contacted Gudmundsson to sound out the financier over a potential purchase, with non-disclosure agreements reached with the various parties. These are binding in law and subject to confidentiality agreements and allow the suitors to scrutinise financial information about West Ham, although access to the accounts has been limited with a process of due diligence yet to take place.

Initial offers put forward by several of those groups have fallen well short of Gudmundsson's £250m valuation and no binding bids have been lodged, with the club's hierarchy keen to stress that this is essentially a means of establishing West Ham's market value.

"We are reviewing the asset, looking at what might be the value of the club," confirmed the West Ham vice-chairman, Asgeir Fridgeirsson. "There is a great interest in the club and many interested parties are calling. It is part of reviewing the assets of Mr Gudmundsson. Following such a review we will take a decision whether to sell or not. We don't have to sell. It's a process where we are gathering information about the demand."

Gudmundsson, who purchased West Ham via WH Holding Ltd for £85m two years ago, has been badly hit by the downturn in the economic climate with Landsbanki put into receivership in October. Samson Holdings, the holding company for shares in Landsbanki, filed for bankruptcy last month, while the travel company XL, West Ham's shirt sponsors for whom Gudmundsson had been the guarantor of a £163m loan given to the company, also collapsed in October. The 67-year-old is currently in talks with the Icelandic government and banks over restructuring his assets.

WH Holding Ltd currently has debts of some £50m, though Gudmundsson has indicated that the club's proximity to the London 2012 Olympics site adds to the club's worth. "The recent sale of Manchester City for £230m could give reason to expect a higher price," his lawyers revealed in court papers. West Ham is thought to be a more valuable club when looking at its location, loyal fan base, more chance of real estate projects, proximity to the Olympic Village and the fact that West Ham owns its ground. The City sale leads us to expect that West Ham could be valued at more around £250m."

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Guest Gary Loughran

I don't think there is a need for the question mark in the title. For some time now we have been for sale and will be sold. These details seem to have been derived from formal documents that had to be submitted by the owner with respect of his holding companies etc.

My only hope is that players are not sold to capitalise some of his own debt and expenditure in the club. I can accept that we have a large playing squad, many not earning their keep such as Boa Morte, Dyer etc. and therefore can understand the sale of fringe players. I only hope that someone wholly solvent and hope beyond hope they have the club at heart in any purchase. This rules in and out the likes of David Sullivan. However if a Middle East buyer was found it would look too much like a business venture and will lead to later instability again.

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