The Harris bid which stirred a hornet’s nest - not in his own words, though

Keith Harris has chosen not to speak to The News over his plans for Pompey
Keith Harris has chosen not to speak to The News over his plans for Pompey
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CLIVE SMITH: I thought they’d finally got the date right and we’d reached Armageddon

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It has been 10 days since Keith Harris lit the fuse and leapt for cover.

The ensuing explosion has seen the PFA, the Football League, PKF, the Pompey Supporters’ Trust, the courts and creditors caught in the radius of the potentially devastating blast.

The result – back to court on February 21, and the Football League standing behind the Trust.

Yet, in the view of administrator Trevor Birch, creditors would have been ‘marginally better off’ with Harris’ bid. According to the jungle drums, Harris has a £3m transfer budget for next season.

What’s more, so says Harris himself, ‘it’s straightforward, cash on the nail to buy the club’.

As for the PFA, they were attracted sufficiently by having more of the money owed to them paid earlier that there was an adjournment in the court process.

Interesting. Time to ask questions to the man heading a group containing fellow investors Alan Hitchins and Pascal Najadi.

Except Harris would rather talk to Sky Sports than The News.

Yes, he prefers detailing his bid in front of the cameras in a national push for publicity than dealing with genuine concerns from the beleaguered supporters of the club he wishes to buy.

After all, there are people in Middlesbrough and Norwich desperate to hear of his grand ambitions.

According to David Bick when contacted by The News, there is nothing more for Harris to comment on at this point, although his offer for the club still remains, despite the Football League saying the Trust’s bid is the only one they will sanction.

Bick is chairman of Square1 Consulting and serves as Harris’ spokesman.

He also ‘advises Southampton occasionally, from time to time’, working with Nicola Cortese since July 2009.

With Harris unwilling to be lured out of the shadows by anyone other than Sky Sports, Bick is authorised to speak.

So through him comes the claim that ‘there is no link at all’ with Harris’ bid and Portpin. It’s a bid, he insists, is ‘completely independent’. Certainly the Portpin issue is one which has caused some to cast a suspicious glance in Harris’ direction.

In his role as chairman of investment bank Seymour Pierce, Harris was employed by Portpin and brought CSI to the table for their ill-fated June 2011 Pompey takeover.

When CSI went into administration in November 2011, joint-administrator Andrew Andronikou instructed Harris to find a new buyer for Pompey.

Suzie MacCagnan also used to work for Seymour Pierce. She is now employed in Portpin’s corporate finance body and is a leading figure in their latest Blues bid.

She has also represented Portpin at several creditors’ meetings, flanking Deepak Chainrai.

Back to Harris, his previous associations with Portpin is something Bick describes as a benefit in the current climate.

‘Keith has done a lot of football deals and advised (Balram) Chainrai in the past. I see that in a good way as he knows what he is dealing with,’ he said.

‘He has done the stadium deal.

‘That relationship in the past was an advisory relationship and he was being paid for it. They have not been in business together. Keith was an advisor in the CSI deal, not working as a principal.’

The ‘stadium deal’ described by Bick centres on leasing Fratton Park from Portpin rather than buying. It is with a view to a permanent purchase, although Bick was unable to pinpoint the time frame for completion of the sale.

What’s more, he admits Portpin wanted it structured that way.

Bick added: ‘There’s a deal leasing the stadium. In terms of Keith buying it, they (Portpin) do not want to do it that way at the moment.

‘The sellers want to take rent for a period of time. It is particularly to do with future value, they don’t want a panic sale or lower valuation.

‘The fact is a deal has been done with them. It will be leased to buy, but they (Harris) are not going to give a time frame at the moment.

‘It secures the use of Fratton Park for purpose for a period of time.’

When Portpin were initially broached about the sale of Fratton Park in May 2012 by the Trust, the response was demands for £1.2m rental per year.

Bick, however, declined to reveal how much Harris has agreed to pay.

He said: ‘I am not going to disclose those numbers, it is commercially sensitive and private.’

Harris’ plans include installing himself as Pompey chairman.

Bid partners Hitchins, who ‘has a veterinary background’, and Najadi are described as ‘passive investors’.

Bick said: ‘This is Keith’s bid, they are backing him with money.

‘It is their money and individual wealth. There is no debt involved.

‘The two will not really be active in the management of the club.

‘Keith has assembled a team of senior managers, they will be himself, John Redgate and Steve Hamer.’

It would represent a return for Redgate who was brought to Fratton Park by Andronikou during the first administration in 2010.

He rose to finance director under Portpin and was made redundant in February 2012.

So they are Harris’ proposals in Bick’s words.

It remains to be seen whether Harris will one day be in a position to explain them himself.