Wets Ham U FC accepts foreign ownership

WH Holding Ltd. is controlled by Eggert Magnusson and offering (US$7.98; euro6.22) per share for the club.

india Updated: Nov 21, 2006 18:48 IST

West Ham became the sixth English Premier League club to fall into foreign ownership when it accepted an 85-million-pound ($161 million; euro125.6 million) takeover bid on Tuesday from an Iceland consortium.

WH Holding Ltd. is controlled by Eggert Magnusson, president of the Football Association of Iceland and a member of UEFA's executive committee, and investor Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson.

Magnusson, who plans to become chairman of the east London club, will keep Alan Pardew as the club's manager, saying he "has my full confidence and support."

"He already knows that funds will be made available for the January transfer window but we need to discuss his needs and the investment that might be required to strengthen the squad," Magnusson said.

He also said that he would investigate the possibility of moving the club from its Upton Park ground to London's Olympic Stadium after the 2012 Summer Games.

WH Holding offered 421 pence (US$7.98; euro6.22) per share for the club. The consortium said that the offer had been accepted by holders of 83 percent of the club's outstanding shares.

"The offer from WH Holding reflects fair value for West Ham, considering its significant history, recent performance and prospects, and its position as a leading London club," said outgoing club chairman Terry Brown.

"Eggert Magnusson is fully committed to ensuring the club can continue its great tradition of success both on and off the field, to the benefit of supporters and the wider community." Speculation about a West Ham takeover has been rife for several weeks, with a rival bid led by Iranian-born Kia Joorabchian once considered the favorite.

With the Icelandic takeover, the futures of West Ham's Argentine stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano are uncertain. They joined the club in late August from Brazilian side Corinthians in a deal brokered by Joorabchian. It's now possible they could leave in the January transfer window.

Magnusson said he wants to build on the history of West Ham, including continuing the club's youth training program, and consider moving from 35,300-seat Upton Park to the Olympic stadium in nearby Stratford.

"If there is an opportunity to discuss a long-term move to the Olympic stadium, I would like to explore that, recognising that there will also need to be an athletics legacy from the London 2012 Olympic Games," he said.

Olympic organisers plan to downsize the 80,000-seat games-time stadium to a 25,000-seat athletics arena after the 2012 games. However, last week, the Olympic Development Authority said it would consider incorporating a Premier League club, as long it retained an athletics track.

The Icelandic officials are the latest foreign investors to take control of a Premier League club. American businessman Malcolm Glazer, owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, took over Manchester United in May 2003, and Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner bought Aston Villa in September.

Russian oil tycoon Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in July 2003, while Portsmouth is owned by Russian businessman Alexandre Gaydamak. Harrods owner Mohammed Al Fayed, an Egyptian, is the chairman of Fulham.

West Ham was formed in 1895 as Thames Iron Works FC and renamed as West Ham United in 1900. The Hammers are currently on the 16th place in the 20-team Premier League.

West Ham has never won the English top-flight championship, but has lifted the FA Cup three times, the last time in 1980, and the 1965 European Cup Winners' Cup. The Hammers lost in last year's FA Cup final to Liverpool.

First Published: Nov 21, 2006 18:48 IST