Published October 10, 2012
The Hong Kong-based owners of English football team Birmingham City said that they are "in talks to sell the club with two possible buyers," according to Tariq Panja of BLOOMBERG. The Midlands-based team was relegated from the Premier League at the end of the '10-11 season, and its largest shareholder Carson Yeung was arrested in Hong Kong last year on money laundering charges. Parent company Birmingham International Holdings Ltd.
said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange that "it signed confidential non-disclosure agreements with two parties it declined to identify." Talks are at an early stage, with "interested parties having sought and were furnished with electronic due diligence materials in relation to BCFC." The statement said, "To the best of the board’s knowledge, information and belief, having made all reasonable enquiries, the prospective buyers and their ultimate beneficial owners are third parties independent of the company and its connected persons" (BLOOMBERG, 10/9
). REUTERS' Soh & Weir wrote that the British media reported last week that Gianni Paladini, an Italian who is the former chairman of EPL club Queens Park Rangers, "was leading a consortium trying to buy the club." Yeung has to apply for court approval to travel to Britain as he is barred from leaving Hong Kong while his case is being heard. According to Reuters data, he "owns about a quarter of Birmingham Int'l, which had a market value of HK$550M ($71M) before its trading suspension" (REUTERS, 10/9
). In Birmingham, Colin Tattum reported that at least three groups, plus Paladini's consortium, "are keen and it seems that it is the beginning of the end of Carson Yeung's regime." Tuesday's statement read, "No binding agreements have been entered into by the Company nor any of its subsidiaries" (BIRMINGHAM MAIL, 10/9
). The BBC's Ged Scott reported that "the club is not officially up for sale," but its long-term plans have become even more clouded in the 16 months since Yeung was arrested and CEO Peter Pannu went on the record in May to say that "they were open to offers of new investment." Hong Kong-based parent company Birmingham Int'l Holdings Ltd. has "not indicated how much any potential sale might raise," but they were reported to have rejected a £25M approach from Paladini last month, following which acting Blues boss Pannu was appointed CEO of BIHL" (BBC, 10/9