Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Cogito, Eggo Sum

Eggert Magnusson was elbowed sideways because of increasing concerns about his power base within the club and the trend towards spiralling players’ wages, according to an article in The Sun. The Hammers chairman lost his executive status — and his six-figure salary — in the shock boardroom shake up yesterday. It is reported that the move came after West Ham United spent a fortune offering players such as Craig Bellamy, Lucas Neill and Scott Parker wages topping £60,000 a week. There was also growing alarm at the way Magnusson has been projected as the man in control, even though he only owns five per cent of the club. An insider said: "It wasn’t really Eggert’s fault, but everyone seemed to think he ruled the club and there was no one else in the background."

Naturally, reports in the less fictitious Icelandic media tell a slightly different story. In an interview with, Magnusson revealed Scott Duxbury will take over the day to day running of the club as the next logical step forward, but also that he would remain very much involved in other areas. "When we took over at the club last year it was never my intention of running the club on a daily basis, 24 hours a day," stated Magnusson. "I, however, did this to begin with as it developed that way. There has been a lot happening over the last few months but we think this is the right time to do these changes. In fact, I needed some time to breath. It has been very busy but now I can concentrate on other things regarding the future vision of the club." On, Magnusson reiterated: "I'm still the chairman and will see over the big decisions like buying/selling players."

The clear inference is that Magnusson will enjoy a reduction in his daily responsibilities and will be able to devote more time to the broader issues. These include improving the clubs links with the commercial world, developing the global brand and work on a new 60,000-seater ground near to West Ham tube station. The latter has moved a step nearer after club sources confirmed Hammers have been granted exclusive negotiating rights to buy land for the £250million stadium.

An interesting piece in today's Guardian suggests an unexpected beneficiary of Alisher Usmanov's decision to increase his stake in Arsenal to 21% is the billionaire Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, whose bank Landsbanki acted as broker for Usmanov's investment vehicle, Red & White Holdings. Gudmundsson, who owns more than 90% of West Ham, became chairman of what was previously Iceland's national bank in the 1990s, and its London subsidiary is understood to have brokered Usmanov's purchase of an additional 6% of the club's stock for more than £30million. The role played by Landsbanki has prompted speculation that Gudmundsson was instrumental in introducing Usmanov to David Dein, whose 14.6% stake gave the Uzbek his initial foothold in the club. Gudmundsson, who said he is to take a more hands-on role at West Ham, spent several years in Russia after being charged with fraud in Iceland. He founded the Bravo brewery in Russia, later selling it to Heineken for $400million.

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