Pompey probe to focus on former owners

Sacha Gaydamak
Sacha Gaydamak
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Pompey’s administrators say their investigation into the club’s demise will concentrate on the three previous owners – and could lead to possible action against them.

The rapid change of ownership from Sacha Gaydamak to Sulaiman Al-Fahim and then Ali al-Faraj will be the main focus of their probe.

Peter Kubik

Peter Kubik

But their findings may never be made public – unless any of them are called on to appear in court over the matter.

Peter Kubik, one of the administrators from UHY Hacker Young who was tasked to save Pompey, said the investigation would look into the dealings of the three owners.

‘There will be an investigation into the conduct of each of them,’ he told a seminar organised by the Turnaround Management Association in Reading.

‘What the outcome will be is a different question – potential action against each party.’

Rules of administration say that the liquidators can look back at the company’s history and try to pin-point exactly when the directors should have realised the firm could no longer go on trading.

Any payments made in that time could be recovered, and the directors who made the decision to pay could be held financially responsible.

The administrators could look as far back as February 2008 – two years before Pompey was placed in administration by Balram Chainrai’s company, Portpin.

Mr Kubik said they were also looking to claw back the £1.5m Pompey was fined by the Premier League before it entered administration.

The fine was imposed after Sacha Gydamak left the club because of ‘financial irregularities’ relating to the period before Balram Chainrai and Levi Kushnir took the club over for the first time.

Mr Kubik said the liquidators – which his company will appoint – could pursue the Premier League or ‘someone else’ for the money, but didn’t directly specify who.

If recovered, that money would be handed to Portsmouth 2010, the company set up when the club came out of administration.

Mr Kubik revealed they had tried to challenge Pompey’s nine point deduction handed to them by the Premier League when the club went into administration.

But he said this put the club’s advanced ‘parachute payments’ from the Premier League in jeopardy.

Mr Kubik said: ‘The moment we mentioned that the funding was withdrawn.

‘Our legal advice said it was very difficult to challenge it, so we withdrew it and the funding reappeared.

‘The Premier League had had enough of Portsmouth in terms of its varied owners.

‘They said to us they didn’t care whether it survived.’

Mr Kubik said that despite there being plenty of interest from potential buyers, only one was serious – Portpin.

He said: ‘There were a lot of interested parties, not necessarily a lot of interested parties with funds.

‘We tried to fish them out by asking for a £5,000 non-refundable deposit.

‘We got one. There were some people who were looking for information, or who were trying to hold up the process for whatever reason.

‘We didn’t find a buyer per se. The club was handed back to the debenture holder.’

But he confirmed the club could have easily folded after Sacha Gaydamak had demanded all his money up front.

He said: ‘That sale on the last day was hampered by the second debenture holder, Sacha Gaydamak, who wanted his £2.4m paid back in full.

‘We didn’t have that money to give him. There was a stand-off. We were within hours of shutting the door at the club at the end of the season.’

The club is on track to break even for the year ending May 31, compared to a £13.5m pre-tax loss for the year ending 31 May 2009.

It is welcome news for fans still worried about the club.

Mr Kubik added: ‘If the club sticks to these figures they will have turned around and done well.’

A spokesman for Mr Gaydamak did not want to comment. Al-Faraj and Al Fahim were not able to be contacted.

Al-Faraj exists

ABSENTEE Pompey owner Ali al-Faraj does exist, according to Peter Kubik, one of the club’s administrators.

Questions have been asked in Parliament about Mr al-Faraj’s existence, with pleas to the Department of Media and Sport to conduct and investigation into the entire issue of football club ownership.

It emerged that no-one connected to Pompey in the past had ever met Mr al-Faraj in person.

He was only ever represented at Fratton Park by his brother Ahmed.

But speaking at a seminar which focused on Portsmouth Football Club, Mr Kubik said: ‘Al-Faraj does exist, I’ve interviewed him.

‘We had to interview him as part of the administration.’

The rapid succession of owners at Pompey, and their apparent lack of wealth, shed light on the Premier League’s Fit and Proper Persons test – a simple form that all prospective club owners had to fill in before they are given the green light for ownership.

The Premier League has since said it has tightened up its test.