Wrangle over West Ham value delays takeover

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The Independent Football

A last-minute wrangle over price is set to cause yet another delay in the takeover of West Ham United by the consortium fronted by the Iranian businessman Kia Joorabchian.

It means that the deadline for the deal to be finalised by today - which has been set by the club's board - is likely to be missed. Talks were continuing yesterday between Joorabchian and the West Ham directors and there is still an outside chance of an agreement before the weekend. There is unlikely to be any official statement today.

However West Ham, who have grown increasingly irritated by the latest delay and are starting to question the resources of the consortium, could stick to their valuation - and call the whole process off. Sources believe, however, that the likelihood is that another extension will be granted because so much time and effort has gone into negotiations thus far.

The hold-up is understood to relate to some of the liabilities that the prospective new owners, headed by the Israeli property magnate Eli Papoushado and with the backing of the bank, NM Rothschild, will take on board. They claim that they did not know about the extra costs, which are thought to be no more than £5m and have consequently attempted to renegotiate the price.

But West Ham are insistent that Papoushado has to pay the original £75m that was previously agreed in addition to taking on the club's debts of £23.5m. A further complication is that the club's bankers have yet to agree for the debt to be carried forward.

At the same time it has also grown increasingly clear that the deal is being driven by Papoushado and his advisers rather than Joorabchian.

Although he will probably take a seat on the board should the takeover succeed, the role of Joorabchian is thought to have been described as that of "football consultant" - which means, however, that he will be heavily involved in the signing of new players.

Papoushado will, sources close to him claim, install a businessman called Boris Ivesha to be his main representative on the board. Ivesha is a Yugoslav-born British citizen who is himself thought to be worth more than £100m. He is also president of, and a significant shareholder in, Park Plaza Hotels Europe - of which the main shareholder is Papoushado - and has spent the past 20 years in London building hotel businesses.

At the same time the current managing director at West Ham, Paul Aldridge, who is believed to be keen on Joorabchian succeeding, is expected to stay on while there will also be a role for the chairman Terence Brown who, at present, controls 40 per cent of the club's shares. If the takeover succeeds it will call into question the future of the manager Alan Pardew.

The current board remains adamant that it will not negotiate with a rival consortium headed by the Icelandic businessman Eggert Magnusson, and with the backing of a wealthy Scandinavian financer, but who has been frustrated in his attempts to hold talks.

Nevertheless the hold-up on the Papoushado deal, over a relatively minor matter of payments, calls into question what kind of funds will be made available to West Ham and also how deep are the pockets of the would-be new owners.

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