Sunday, 11 March 2007

Problems Mushroom

West Ham fans have always been treated like mushrooms- that is to say we are kept mostly in the dark and fed a steady diet of shit. Every week brings a new stream of startling revelations, accusations and counter claims, disinformation, legerdemain and cozenage; and each half truth is coloured by its own agenda.

The latest flimflammery comes courtesy of the News of the World who claim to have "exposed how two former West Ham bosses tried to line their own pockets from the sale of the club." I'll reproduce the article here because the online version of the story won't be up for long. It should be noted from the outset that any story that involves Terence Brown is likely to induce feelings of nausea and some of the details will be hard to stomach for many West Ham supporters. Having said that, I am still struggling to find a real story here amid the bluster.

Revealed: naked greed behind takeover
By Rob Beasley

In a shocking and explosive exclusive, we reveal how former chairman Terence Brown and his managing director Paul Aldridge would have trousered £9.3million if the club had been sold to bidder Kia Joorabchian. Documents were produced during an internal inquiry at West Ham and have now been forwarded to the Premier League for investigation.

A League spokesman said: "I can confirm we have received two draft contracts detailing what Terence Brown and Paul Aldridge would receive from a Kia Joorabchian takeover." The contracts show how Brown would have received a £1.5m lump sum on completion of the sale to Joorabchian. His wages would then have been tripled to £1.5m a year for the NEXT THREE YEARS. Aldridge would have received a similar package — a £1m signing-on fee and his salary doubled in a deal totalling £3.3m. The plot was abandoned when Brown was advised it would break Stock Market rules and regulations.

But as an alternative way of cashing in, Brown then sent an e-mail to Joorabchian recommending he upped his bid for the club by £5m as a means of getting the extra cash. When confronted by the News of the World, the pair insisted they had done nothing wrong.

Brown said: "It was something that came up but I rejected it very early on. It was never an issue because I didn't want the money. If I wanted that deal to happen, I would have had to put it to the shareholders and they would have voted. There is nothing irregular about it."

But he admitted he had then sent an e-mail suggesting an alternative way of getting the money by raising the offer for the club.

"I had two choices: I could just say no and walk away, or - because remember, I've got 40 per cent of the club - so one way or another I was going to benefit from adding onto the price and they accepted it. You've got to bear in mind that the Kia lot needed management. They needed Paul to stay on badly. When a company is taken over and you want to keep the management, you have to make them an offer. He'd have been a good investment and you know what people are earning in football."

Brown also insists he was not favouring Joorabchian's bid ahead of the man who eventually gained control, Eggert Magnusson. He said: "No I didn't. Kia came first. He had been around for a long time. The others came in late in the day."

Damning documents sensationally reveal the naked greed of the men who sold West Ham United.

The News of the World can reveal how former chairman Terence Brown and ex-managing director Paul Aldridge demanded £9.3million conditional on the sale of the club to Iranian bidder Kia Joorabchian. The pair got West Ham solicitors Herbert Smith to draw up a draft agreement that would have guaranteed Brown:
  • £1.5m lump sum "signing on" fee.
  • £1.5m a year salary for three years.
  • Life presidency of the club — and eight directors' box tickets for every home game. Bonuses for youth team success.
  • Carpark passes, hospitality in the chairman's suite and pension rights.And all that was on top of the £30m he was set to pick up from the sale of his shares.

Aldridge was also on a nice little earner too. He would have trousered a £1.1m lump sum on completion of the deal and a £1.1m-a-year pay deal for the next two years. Unfortunately for the pair, their money-making deals would have broken strict City rules governing takeovers of public limited companies. Warned about this, Brown — faced with losing almost £4.4m — emailed Joorabchian's advisers with another proposal in a desperate bid to rescue the cash.

At the time, Joorbachian was offering £70m for the club so Brown told him to ramp up the purchase price to more than £75m so he could still cash in. Brown's damning email read: "The new package was to be worth £6m — £1.5m signing on and £1.5m p.a. for 3 years. We have looked at alternative arrangements but none seem to meet the regulatory requirements. I would suggest therefore that I remain on my present terms and that we add the saving of £4.3m to the purchase price increasing that from £70,708,372 to £75,082,372."

Brown last night insisted the original plan to pay him and Aldridge £9.3m was "never going to happen". He added: "I'm an accountant and I wouldn't do anything like that. I don't need that, so it was never going to happen."

He did, however, concede he personally sent the email because he knew the original draft document would breach takeover regulations. He explained: "I was never going to accept the deal. I had two choices: I could just say no and walk away, — because remember, I've got 40 per cent of the club — so one way or another I was going to benefit from adding onto the price and they accepted it. There is nothing untowards about that."

But Brown denied that getting Joorabchian to bolt on another £5m was a way round the fact that he couldn't accept the original cash deal. He said: "If they are saving a cost, why not add it elsewhere? I did it for the benefit of the shareholders and the club and don't forget I was one of the major shareholders, so it wasn't necessarily to my disadvantage. Why give money away? It wasn't a way around anything."

Brown and Aldridge's dream disappeared when Joorabchian pulled out of his proposed takeover. But the duo also tried to persuade Icelander Eggert Magnusson to agree similar deals — but he refused and retained the pair only on their existing salaries.

But Magnusson was mortified when an internal West Ham inquiry discovered the draft contracts and email which exposed the pair's scheming. Those explosive documents have now been handed to the Premier League, with the Hammers hoping it is vital new evidence in their fight to clear the club over the controversial signings of Argentinian stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.

Both players were uniquely owned by third parties — including Joorbachian — and West Ham are now accused of playing them illegally because they did not submit the proper paperwork. If found guilty, they face a heavy fine and even the docking of crucial league points. But West Ham insist all negotiations regarding the players were conducted solely by Brown and Aldridge. And the discovery of these documents prove the pair had a financial incentive to help Joorabchian.

When confronted by the News of the World last night, the club were stunned to discover we knew about the Brown documents. A spokesman would only say: "Until the current Premier League inquiry is completed, the club cannot comment on matters relating to the case."

A Premier League spokesman last night said: "We can confirm that two draft documents have been received detailing what Terence Brown and Paul Aldridge would receive from a Kia Joorabchian takeover of West Ham United." Brown maintained the offer of the cash payments was inspired by Joorabchian and that he had rejected it an early stage.

Mike Hanna, former chairman of the Northern Hammers, was a shareholder for more than 10 years. Hanna said: "At no time did Brown or Aldridge ever own up to being offered payments from Joorabchian. It shows again Brown was just somebody who wanted maximise his bank account. He can never show his face at Upton Park again. He's a disgrace."

The negative press continues in the Sunday Mirror, who claim two West Ham players were caught up in a "race hate hell." According to one eye witness Nigel Reo-Coker and Shaun Newton had to flee after being targeted by a racist section of their own supporters. The report states that a 30-strong mob turned on the black players during last weekend's home game against Tottenham. Reo-Coker and Newton, who were spectators at the match, were racially abused, physically threatened and forced to leave their seats in the stand. The incident comes on the back of the race row from the same game where a large groups of West Ham supporters were filmed chanting racist and anti-semitic slogans at half-time of the club's 4-3 defeat last Sunday.

Interestingly, it is the second time this season that Reo-Coker has allegedly been on the receiving end of racist abuse after it was claimed he had been the recipient of hate mail a few months ago. On that occasion the offending letters were never seen by any one other than the player and his agent. On Sunday, not one person out of the thousands who visit the various West Ham internet forums on a daily basis could recall seeing the race attack on our club captain, which is strange considering his high profile, prominant seat and the large number of people involved. When Nigel 'regrettably' slaps in a transfer request in the summer we can fully expect to hear how he was 'forced out of the club' by certain elements of our support. It will be one of the most mendacious and cynical attempts at engineering a move away from the club that any player has ever perpetrated.

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