13 January 2010
Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes is out to win control of West Ham in the next 48 hours by pledging a "significant" transfer pot for Gianfranco Zola to invest in a new team at Upton Park.
Tony Fernandes: Air Asia boss a West Ham fan.
Hammers fan Fernandes is trying to hurry the deal through in time to make an impact in the January transfer window.
However, former Birmingham City owners David Gold and David Sullivan are also in the bidding war with Fernandes, and haven't given up hope of success.
Gold and Sullivan have the experience of running Blues and would probably want the equally knowledgeable Karren Brady - who was managing director at St Andrew's - as part of their new management team at Upton Park. In contrast, the man who owns Air Asia has no previous involvement in football, but would maintain the high level of foreign ownership in the Premier League.
ESPN Soccernet has learned that the long-awaited Hammers takeover is in its final stages, and could be concluded before the weekend to provide an injection of much needed transfer cash for Zola, with the new owners likely to be in place, ready for action on Monday morning.
A City source told ESPN Soccernet: "The way the transaction is being structured any capital is going straight into the club.
"The plan is for a new share issue and this can mean a significant investment going into the club, which in turn can stimulate the belief from the banks that over a period of time, they can recoup the money owed to them.
"The feeling is that Tony Fernandes really does mean business and West Ham can end up with more capital if they go with him."
The source insists that Intermarket - another company heavily linked with a takeover bid for the Hammers - has never been able to show proof of funds to the satisfaction of the banks, despite its protestations to the contrary.
The consortium of five banks that has loaned money to the Hammers is believed to favour the takeover proposals tabled by Fernandes, but Gold and Sullivan might make a last ditch attempt to improve their offer in the next 24 hours.
Rothschild, the investment bank which was appointed in October to sound out potential investors, together with representatives from Glitnir, Standard Bank, Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland and Straumur, West Ham's five main lenders, is on the verge of making its decision.
Fernandes, a lifelong West Ham supporter and Lotus F1 team boss, has been locked in talks in with Straumur, in its capacity as the largest shareholder in CB Holdings - the company set up by the creditors of West Ham's former owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson.
By Harry Harris, Football Correspondent