Blackburn's prospective owner's trail of unpaid debt
Tue 7th Sep 2010 | Clubs Ownership
Ahsan Ali Syed is expected to complete the due diligence process into his proposed £300m takeover of Blackburn Rovers this week amid allegations he has several unpaid debts in the UK.
It’s understood the Bahrain-based Indian businessman hopes to purchase Rovers from the Walker Trust by the end of this month having signed a one-month exclusivity period to study the club's books. Speaking to the Guardian Newspaper, Syed said recently that he owned "more than 130 companies and publicly my assets are worth more than £8bn", and promised Blackburn's manager, Sam Allardyce, a £100m transfer budget should he gain control, but he was unable to complete due diligence before the original target of last week's transfer deadline.
However, it has since emerged that Syed's investment company in Bahrain, Western Gulf Advisory, was forced to cease trading by the country's Minister of Industry and Commerce due to an investigation into its "source of funding". The 36-year-old says he is cooperating fully with that process and his bid to buy Blackburn is unaffected as that is led by his Switzerland-based company, Western Gulf Advisory-AG.
BBC's 5 Live Investigates team has accused Syed of leaving a trail of unpaid debt when he lived in England between 2001 and 2005. These include a failure to settle a £61,500 county court judgment made against him in 2007, unpaid rent of approximately £7,800 on a London flat he vacated in May 2005 and unpaid council tax totalling £932.25. Syed was listed as a director of two UK companies – All Star Foods and Grovebridge Investments Limited – which were dissolved when no returns were submitted to Companies House.
The businessman did not cooperate with the BBC investigation and his spokesperson unavailable for comment today but Rovers did respond to concerns over their potential new owner: "The club has been for sale for some time and, for it to remain competitive in one of the world's toughest sporting competitions, we accept that new investment is required. Equally, the trustees of the late Jack Walker, who are being professionally advised, and the club's board of directors are acutely aware of the responsibility involved in passing the club to a new owner. We are custodians of a club with a proud heritage dating back to 1875 – a founder member of the Football League."
Blackburn would make no further comment on Syed's interest but its trustees, who have run the club since Walker, its former benefactor, died in 2000, have appointed the investment bankers Rothschild to conduct the sales process. Rothschild will carry out its own investigations into Syed's financial background, or that of any prospective owner, before the Blackburn trustees and directors allow any deal to advance to the Premier League's Owners and Directors Test.
A means and abilities test also obligates a prospective new owner to demonstrate they have funds to sustain "the club for the year ahead" and the Rovers board intend to scrutinise the motives behind any takeover as they look to safeguard the club's future.
Syed's exclusivity agreement with Blackburn is close to expiring and a decision on whether he will proceed with an offer for the club is expected in the coming days. Other parties have expressed interest in buying Rovers recently, including Saurin Shah, a Mumbai businessman, and at least one other group, although Syed's interest is the most advanced.
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