Monday, August 22, 2005


No Roman Style Spending Spree

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KIA JOORABCHIAN, the Iranian-born businessman trying to buy West Ham, the Premiership football club, has warned fans he won’t be going on a Roman Abramovich-style spending spree to achieve success.

In his first in-depth interview since news of his interest in the Hammers broke last week, Joorabchian told The Sunday Times he would not emulate Chelsea’s owner: “Our aim is not to win a title by spending £500m or £700m. Our aim is to create a title-winning team but by being smart — investing correctly like Manchester United and Arsenal.”

He warned that if he succeeded in buying West Ham or any of the other clubs his firm Media Sport Investment (MSI) is eyeing, there would not be a bottomless pit of money thrown at it.

“We are not just about spending money to win the title. We want to have the stars but be able to capitalise on them. Look at Real Madrid; they buy a star like Zinedine Zidane or David Beckham but on the back of it, they increase their revenues twofold. I don’t have unlimited resources. If we were to invest in a club in the UK or anywhere in Europe we would need (to invest) at least £100m to compete with the top four teams in each of the European leagues.”

Joorabchian refused to comment on his talks to buy West Ham although after the London club issued a statement on Friday evening that it was yet to receive a proposal from MSI, the would-be bidder affirmed that a takeover of the newly promoted side was something he was considering.

“We are at a very primitive stage of due diligence,” he said. “If we feel it is the right thing to do, we will move ahead.”

He scotched rumours that one of his backers was Boris Berezovsky, the Russian oligarch residing in London. “No; he’s not an investor in MSI,” said the 34-year-old
businessman, who holds a British passport and is said to be an Arsenal fan.

“Quite simply, he does not want to invest in football at the moment. He has totally different goals. He is a good friend of mine but he’s not involved in many businesses any more.”

Joorabchian also declined to disclose the identities of the investors in MSI. “First, these people don’t want to be publicised and be interrogated on a daily basis. Second, and more importantly, we operate like any other fund in the world — 99.9% of all funds never reveal their investors, so why should we be any different because we are in the football business? I am the fund manager.

“When Tony Cottee (a former West Ham player) is reported as leading a consortium to buy the club, you don’t find out who the individuals behind the consortium are.”

But Joorabchian did say that the investors who would back a takeover of a European club, such as West Ham, were likely to be different from those who had backed his purchase last year of Brazilian side Corinthians, who now top their domestic league. There are investigations by Brazilian authorities into allegations that the club is being used to launder money.

Joorabchian denied the allegations and branded the probes into his business as “political rubbish”. He said: “All it does is slow our growth. We have to spend a lot of time and energy answering this kind of rubbish.”

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