MANAMA, BAHRAIN // An Indian businessman in talks to purchase the English Premier League club Blackburn said today that he is co-operating with investigators in Bahrain after reports his company was shut down by fiscal regulators. The probe could raise questions about whether Ahasan Ali Syed can move ahead with efforts to acquire the northwest England team, which granted him exclusive negotiating rights earlier this month.
But Julia Thiem, a spokeswoman for Ali Syed's investment firm Western Gulf Advisory, said it would not affect his bid for Rovers. She said the deal was being put together through Ali Syed's European holdings and not the Bahrain-based company. "It has no influence on the takeover bid, no influence on negotiations as we are acquiring the club from our European entities and in the name of Mr Ahsan Ali Syed," Thiem said. "We are still hopeful that we can approach the Premier League by the end of this week or the beginning of next week."
Thiem also denied reports that the Bahrain company's business was suspended, saying it was operating normally today. But a Bahraini trade official, Hameed Yousif Rahma, was quoted by the Al Wasat newspaper earlier this week saying that regulators ordered its closure for not having the proper permits to operate in the country. A statement by Ali Syed said he is "co-operating fully" with investigators.
"The Bahraini authorities have asked for clarification on WGA's investment activities," he said, suggesting that authorities are looking into the company's structure and records. "There is no hidden investor or any outside wealth involved in any way in the investment activities of Western Gulf Advisory," he added. Ali Syed, who says he is a long-time Blackburn fan, will reportedly pay off the club's £20 million (Dh113m) of debt and invest £300m into the club. He also has reportedly earmarked £80m for new players.
A number of consortiums have contacted the Jack Walker Trustees over the last three years including one from ex-JJB Sports chief executive Chris Ronnie, and another based in Iceland. In June another Indian entrepreneur, Saurin Shah, was reportedly prepared to bid for the club but nothing came of it. Ali Syed's bid marks the latest sign that Gulf businessmen are looking to invest in European soccer clubs.
Premier League rival Manchester City is owned by Sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi while the Qatari sheik Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Thani became the new owner of struggling Spanish league club Malaga in June. * AP