Magnusson heads mystery banker's bid for West Ham takeover

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The Independent Online

An "extremely wealthy" Scandinavian banker is behind a consortium wanting to purchase West Ham United. The man is not the Icelandic businessman Eggert Magnusson - who nevertheless confirmed yesterday that he is the figurehead for the group - and wants to remain anonymous at present.

It is understood a bid was put beforeWest Ham's chairman, Terence Brown, last week. The consortium, whose existence was revealed by The Independent, now hope for permission to examine the club's books and start due diligence. It is hoped a deal, worth about £70m for the club plus taking on debts of £22.5m, will be agreed in the next few weeks. Brown is discussing itwith the club's financial advisers, Hawkpoint.

At the same time it is understood West Ham's directors have all but given up on Kia Joorabchian - despite the Iranian businessman's insistence that he is close to securing the funding to take over the club. A deadline was set for Monday for Joorabchian to have come forward but that has now passed.

Brown, who controls 35 per cent of the shares, and the managing director, Paul Aldridge, had been keen to do a deal with Joorabchian - who brought the Argentines Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano to West Ham - and are thought to believethe Scandinavian bid is too "debt-laden".

However, it is a serious proposition and is being advised by Keith Harris, the chief executive of the investment bank Seymour Pierce, who recently helped Randy Lerner buy Aston Villa. Magnusson, 59, is a highly credible addition to the team. He has been the head of his country's football federation for 18 years and is on Uefa's executive committee.

Magnusson, who is also a director of the Icelandic investment bank Straumur, spoke to The Independent yesterday and insisted the interest was "serious". He also questioned the effect Joorabchian has had on West Ham. "I am serious," he said. "Someone said 'is this a red herring' and it most certainly is not. I know where that kind of remark is coming from and I think that says a lot about the people who say it rather than anything about me.

"I certainly believe that the problems West Ham have had at the beginning of this season have been due to the constant speculation of a takeover. I don't really want to add to that now but I'm not going to deny that I'm interested." Magnusson offered his backing to Alan Pardew. "I don't know if the manager was told to use the two Argentinian players but I can assure him, and everyone else, that there would be no interference from me," he said.

Magnusson said that Pardew was a "great manager", adding "it is a great club with many good players". He has not had a "direct response" from Brown but hopes to meet him "sooner rather than later".

"We are at the beginning of the process and it will take some time," Magnusson said. "I have been in football all my life and want to protect football interests... I can assure you the money will be there if we need to go forward," he added.

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