WEST HAM’S new owners David Sullivan and David Gold have pledged to drag the Hammers out of the financial mire after laying bare the full extent of the club’s crippling £110m mountainof debt.
Former Birmingham City owners Sullivan and Gold yesterday took charge of the East End outfit they grew up supporting after acquiring a 50 per cent holding in a deal that values West Ham at £105m.
On the field they have thrown their weight behind manager Gianfranco Zola, promising to support the Italian in the January transfer window, allaying fears that stars will be sold off and vowing to steer West Ham out of the Premier League’s relegation zone.
Off it, they have appointed their ex-Birmingham cohort Karren Brady as vice-chairman, announced ambitious plans to relocate to the Olympic Stadium and slash ticket costs, and invited wealthy fellow Hammers fans to join them in investing.
Sullivan and Gold want several individuals to join them in a consortium in order to exercise their four-year option over the remaining 50 per cent, still owned by CB Holding.
They have sworn to work for nothing and pay Brady out of their own pockets, but concede they lack the funds to buy the club outright and tackle a debt pile more than twice the size of previous estimates.
“We’ve paid down some of the debt and injected some working capital, but there is still £100m of debt – £50m owed to banks, £40m owed to other clubs,” said Sullivan.
“With most clubs you are owed money and you owe money; here West Ham owe £40m to other clubs and we are not owed a single penny.
“The debt is around £102m. In addition there is the [former manager Alan] Curbishley settlement, so the true figure is around £110m. We will raise more money and with other people will dig the club out of the mess we’re in. We’re not the king of Saudi Arabia, we’re not Roman Abramovich, we’re English taxpayers and we haven’t got £140m spare.”
Sullivan said they would ask Tony Fernandes, the Malaysian owner of Formula One team Lotus and one of two rival bidders, to buy a minority stake. He added that had a takeover failed, Zola would have been forced into selling players to pay an £8m bill due at the end of the month.
Sullivan blamed the debt on the “potty” Icelandic owners who bought the club in November 2006, adding: “We wouldn’t buy this club if it wasn’t West Ham; it makes no commercial sense. We bought this as fans.”
Olympic chiefs’ desire for an athletics legacy could scupper Sullivan’s plans to rent the 80,000-capacity Stratford stadium, although he suggested the compromise of laying a running track during the summer.
BRADY | FIRST LADY OF FOOTBALL
KARREN BRADY has cemented her status as the most powerful woman in football by reuniting with Sullivan and Gold at West Ham. The Londoner, 40, started her career in advertising before taking her first job in football, as Birmingham’s managing director, aged just 24.
There she took a club in administration into profit and became the youngest MD of a British plc when Birmingham was floated in 1997. Also on the board of Channel 4 and England’s 2018 World Cup bid, she helped Sullivan and Gold establish the Blues as a top flight side before they sold up last year.