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Volume 10 No. 23


Scottish Premier League club Heart of Midlothian Owner Vladimir Romanov "has finally broken his silence on the crisis at his stricken club" -- to deny it has financial problems, according to Lauren Crooks of the Scotland DAILY RECORD. The 65-year-old tycoon, "who has not been seen in Edinburgh for months, denied the club has serious problems when the Sunday Mail caught up with him." Romanov said, "Hearts don’t have any financial problems for eight years already. Only journalists spread false stories about that." Romanov, who has a substantial stake in the Lithuanian Ukio Bank, "is also chairman of UBIG Investments -- the majority stakeholder in Hearts and Lithuanian basketball club Zalgaris." Romanov "flatly denied Hearts were in danger." He also refused to say "if he would answer fans' demands for him to come to Edinburgh" (DAILY RECORD, 11/l8). In Edinburgh, Moira Gordon reported Hearts "will have to be debt and liability free at the time of a handover," or the proposed fans' ownership plan simply will not work. Former Hearts player Steven Tweed said that "such laudable ambitions will not be met at Hearts." With the club debts amounting to more than £22M ($35M), Romanov "would need to write off the vast majority of the sums due, but his personal fortune is not considered sufficient to cover such an extravagance." While his UBIG investment vehicle "is already struggling to maintain its current share price and is therefore unlikely to sanction any such benevolence when it knows it would see the company’s value plummet further." It points to "something of a stalemate" (SCOTSMAN, 11/18).

EPL West Ham United co-Owner David Gold "has admitted he would sell some of his stake in the club if he can find an Upton Park sugar-daddy," according to Martin Lipton of the London MIRROR. However, Gold insisted that he and partner David Sullivan "will not make the mistake they did at Birmingham -- and put the future of the Hammers at risk." Gold believes that the only way West Ham can realize its ambitions of becoming a top-four club "is by combining significant outside investment" and its planned move to the Olympic Stadium. That would mean handling over at least a partial share in the club to a cash-laden investor, although Gold maintains that "he and Sullivan do not want to sell lock, stock and barrel." Gold added that "the sort of money required to turn the Hammers into a genuine force -- even with the move to the Olympic Stadium, now unlikely before '16 -- rarely exists." Gold said, "You have to be a billionaire to make a major difference and there aren't many of them about" (MIRROR, 11/15). GOAL's John Stammers reported Gold then explained that "securing the Olympic Stadium would be a massive boost to the club in terms of attracting big-name players and help boost revenues, but assured fans that the chairmen will not take any unnecessary risks or sign over-demanding players." He said: "We’re not going to be a top-four club straightaway. But one day, it’s possible, if there is a super-wealthy West Ham fan who wants to come and join the club, that could change things for us" (GOAL, 11/16).

National Rugby League South Sydney Rabbitohs members will be given the first option to buy actor Russell Crowe's stake in the club as the actor's decision to sell out of the club "casts doubts over privatisation in the NRL," according to Brad Walter of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The provision for the actor and Peter Holmes a Court to offer their 75% shareholding in Souths to the club's members if they ever decided to sell is "detailed in the terms of the deal negotiated by the Rabbitohs board in '06." Under the contract, two independent valuations of the club's worth will be obtained and the members "will be offered the chance to buy back the club at the median price." The members -- through a company called Member Group -- already hold the other 25% stake and a ''golden share'' preventing any owner from "changing the club's name, colours, logo or moving Souths from Sydney." However, if the members cannot afford the price, the stake will be offered to the South Sydney Juniors, whose leagues club is one of the wealthiest in New South Wales. It remains unclear whether it is the full 75% stake that Crowe and Holmes a Court "purchased for through a company known as BlackCourt Holdings, or merely Crowe's shareholding" (SMH, 11/19).