FORMER Birmingham City co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan stepped up their expected takeover of struggling West Ham last night by lodging a formal £50m bid.
The Hammers are seeking new owners following the bankruptcy of Icelandic chairman Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, while shirt sponsors, the XL holiday company, also went out of business.
Gold, meanwhile, has been in the hunt for a club in the south after he ended his 16-year association with Birmingham when he and co-owner Sullivan sold the club to Hong Kong billionaire Carson Yeung.
Sky Sports News quoted a source close to Gold as saying that a bid has already been submitted to Rothschild and Standard Bank, who were appointed in October to find new owners.
It is said that the money will be split between paying off the Icelandic owners and the debt accrued, and providing funds to strengthen the playing squad in January.
It is also understood that Gold and Sullivan are fully behind the management team of Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke despite the Hammers languishing in the bottom three in the Premier League table.
The West Ham board are expected to discuss the offer on Friday, although it is also understood that Gold and Sullivan’s is not the only offer that has been lodged.
Either way, the introduction of a new owner to Upton Park will come as an early Christmas present to Hammers fans, who are desperate for stability after a turbulent last few season both on and off the pitch.
The club was bought by Icelandic businessmen Eggert Magnusson and Gudmundsson for £85m in 2006, before Magnusson stepped down as executive chairman to work in a non-executive role in September 2007.
By December, Magnusson had gone, selling his share of the club to Gudmundsson, but his business empire then collapsed in June this year, causing the club to be acquired by CB Holding, a unit of Iceland’s bailed-out Straumur-Burdaras bank.
Straumur appointed Andrew Bernhardt as chairman but without funds to strengthen their squad, the club’s league position began to suffer.
Boss Zola faces a fight to hold onto his three main assets – England trio Robert Green, Matthew Upson and Carlton Cole – but any movement in the boardroom could now give the Italian the rare luxury of dabbling in the market himself in a bid to pull the Hammers away from the drop zone.