City regulator questions Hammers bid

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Joorabchian, a 34-year-old Iranian-born British passport holder who is said to support Arsenal, was flushed into the open by the Takeover Panel which was concerned that speculation might affect the price of West Ham shares.

However, much remains a mystery including the source of MSI's funds. This is widely suspected to be Boris Berezovsky, a 59-year-old Russian billionaire who was once Abramovich's mentor but is now regarded as a rival. Berezovsky, now officially known as Platon Elenin by the Home Office after changing his name, is based in London having been granted political asylum after falling out with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

Joorabchian has denied Berezovsky's involvement but a source close to Upton Park said last night: "I gather that the money would come from the Russian, not the front man [Joorabchian]." Circumstantial evidence surrounding MSI's part-ownership of the Brazilian club Corinthians also suggests Berezovsky is involved. The Corinthians president Alberto Dualib has said that he "visited Berezovsky's home near London" with Joorabchian while in May Berezovsky said that he would inject £27m into MSI to build Corinthians a new stadium.

"Kia Joorabchian and his consortium confirm that they are considering making an offer for West Ham," the MSI statement said. "Matters are at a very early stage and there can be no certainty that a firm offer will be forthcoming or the terms upon which any such offer would be made."

Joorabchian has previously said: "My West Ham project has to be worth around £200m. That's £45m on buying the club, £30m on its debts, another £30m on keeping the cash-flow going and around £100m on new players.There's no point in buying West Ham unless you are going to invest in turning them into one of the top teams in the country. There is huge potential there."

West Ham is publicly listed, with the principal shareholders being Terry Brown, the chairman, and the Cearns and the Hills families. Brown has previously said that he would consider bids if he thought it was to the good of the club, but he does not appear to be in any great hurry to sell. Last night no one at the club was prepared to comment.

To judge from their work in Brazil, MSI, should they take over West Ham, will seek to transform the club into credible challengers to Abramovich's Chelsea.

They agreed a 10-year partnership with the Sao Paolo club last November. In return for delivering 51 per cent of profits to MSI, Corinthians had their £12m debt wiped and investment made on the team. The first purchase was Carlos Tevez, the latest Argentinian to be hailed as "the new Diego Maradona", for £10.5m, a South American record fee. Then, perhaps worryingly for the West Ham manager Alan Pardew, the Corinthians coach Tite was sacked. His replacement - another Argentinian, the former World Cup winner Daniel Passarella - has since been fired, the victim of a poor start. Bolstered by a further £25m investment in players, they have since climbed the Brazilian Championship, going top last Sunday when they won 5-3 at former leaders Ponte Preta.

This is a scenario that West Ham fans could grow to love.

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