Portsmouth have a fourth owner within six months after a takeover by Hong Kong businessman Balram Chainrai was confirmed today – and the club could have a fifth before the season is out.
Chainrai’s company Portpin have taken a controlling interest in the club from former owner Ali Al-Faraj after exercising a clause in their agreement over a £17m (€19.4m) loan made to the Saudi.
However, Chainrai’s aim is merely to stabilise the club before selling it on to new owners in order to recoup his investment.
A Portsmouth spokesman said: “Portpin have exercised a clause in their contractual agreement to take a controlling interest.
“They are taking control on a temporary basis to allow new owners to be found.
“Portpin’s aim is to come in and stabilise the club, sort out the business with the winding up order from HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) and sell it on to new owners.
“New directors will be appointed to the board and Peter Storrie will remain as chief executive and will be running the club.”
Chainrai’s move came after Al Faraj, who had been the most elusive of football club owners and had not even attended a match since his takeover in October, missed several deadlines on repaying the loans that had been made to keep the club going.
The takeover also means the end of the involvement of Daniel Azougy, the controversial Israeli lawyer convicted of fraud in his home country, who has been working as a financial advisor for Al-Faraj.
A club spokesman added: “Daniel Azougy will no longer be involved with the club.”
The takeover should also herald the end of the involvement of British property lawyer Mark Jacobs, who was appointed as a club director by Al-Faraj.
Chainrai’s loans were secured against Al-Faraj’s 90% shareholding, Fratton Park stadium and future TV revenue.
Chainrai told the Portsmouth Evening News: “Portpin has made substantial loans to Portsmouth to try and ensure the club’s future. Portpin will continue to work for the best interests of the club.”
The first aim of the new owner is to tackle the winding-up petition from HMRC over a £7.5m (€8.6m) VAT bill – a High Court hearing is due next Wednesday – to avoid the club going into administration.
Portpin is owned by Chainrai, a 51-year-old Hong Kong-based businessman of Nepalese extraction who has a British passport, along with an Israeli business partner Levi Kushnir. They were part of the consortium put together by Peter Storrie in August which tried to buy the club.
It is the latest twist in a season of upheaval for Portsmouth, who saw Sacha Gaydamak sell the club in August to Sulaiman Al Fahim – Gaydamak says he is still owed £28m (€32m) by Portsmouth.
The financial problems that began to surface in the summer became acute in early October with a delay in players’ wages being paid, followed by Al-Fahim selling a 90% stake to Falcondrone, a British Virgin Islands-based company owned by Al-Faraj.
That takeover failed to bring any financial stability to Pompey, whose fans will be desperately hoping that the latest move does.