West Ham's future in doubt as bids stutter

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The Independent Football

Eli Papoushado, the Israeli property magnate, flew into London last night for further talks over whether or not he is going to proceed with his bid to buy West Ham United.

The millionaire was due to meet Kia Joorabchian, who is fronting the consortium, and may also try to hold discussions with the Premiership club's chairman, Terence Brown, who owns 40 per cent of the shares.

West Ham's board met yesterday and is believed to have decided to set no further deadline on Joorabchian, who has missed at least three previous deadlines, or the rival bid by the Icelandic businessman Eggert Magnusson. Instead, they want simply to see how matters progress.

Magnusson, who was initially rebuffed, held talks with the club on Monday, as revealed by The Independent yesterday, after reorganising his consortium and re-financing his offer with a greater proportion of equity pledged up front. But, as yet, he has still not been granted due diligence.

Rumours circulated yesterday that Papoushado was intending to pull the plug completely on his prospective offer after failing to convince West Ham to reduce their asking price - £75m plus taking on the debts of £22.5m - because there is still an additional £4m outstanding on the transfer fee paid for Dean Ashton and other liabilities.

However, it is believed that Papoushado wants to hold further clarification talks with Joorabchian, and his bankers, NM Rothschild, and will then decide whether to proceed. The fear is that West Ham's future will not be decided for some time yet with Magnusson's advisers believing that they could not complete a takeover, if they submit an acceptable bid, before Christmas.

The uncertainty opens up the uncomfortable possibility of further bids being made. An unnamed American is understood to be monitoring the situation and considering an offer while the rump of the consortium initially involved with Magnusson cannot be discounted and may eventually go it alone. This group is understood to include a number of wealthy West Ham supporters who now feel marginalised.

Magnusson is being backed by Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, the head of the Iceland's oldest bank, Landsbanki, who is, however, using his own personal wealth to help to finance the deal rather than that of the institution. If he succeeds, Magnusson, who says he fully supports the manager, Alan Pardew, and intends to make substantial funds available to him for the January transfer window, will step down from his position as head of his country's football association and a key Uefa delegate.

Understandably, some influential sources close to the club now believe, however, that there will be no takeover this season. It is thought that neither Papoushado, who is believed to be in discussions with other backers, or Magnusson, will be able to convince the board fully that he can meet the non-negotiable valuation placed on the club.

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