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What West Ham takeover means

Simon Austin | 13:04 UK time, Monday, 8 June 2009

The sale of West Ham could be the least exciting takeover in the history of the Premier League.

Without fanfare, CB Holding announced it had bought the club and would not be changing the way it was run.

There were no promises of star signings or qualifying for the Champions League, as there had been when previous owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson arrived at Upton Park in November 2006.

Nevertheless, the takeover is hugely significant because it saves the famous east London club from administration.

This was a realistic prospect, according to the new owners.

Gianfranco Zola
On Monday, an arrangement protecting West Ham's parent company Hansa from its creditors came to an end, meaning even one of its small creditors could have requested its liquidation.

This could have led to the Premier League docking nine points from the Hammers.

CB Holding was set up last week by creditors of Hansa. It is 70% owned by Icelandic bank Straumur, with the remaining 30% held by Byr Bank and MP Bank, which are also based in Iceland.

CB's spokesman, Georg Andersen, insists Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola will have a transfer budget this summer and will not be forced to sell the club's best players.

"We want to make a clear distinction between the financial side of the club and the football side," he told me. "We will leave the football side of the business to Gianluca Nani, Scott Duxbury and Gianfranco Zola, while we focus on the financial side.

"Selling our best players would make absolutely no business sense, because it would jeopardise the potential future price. We will try to hold the value of the club and enhance it if possible."

The financial side of the club will be overseen by new non-executive chairman, the publicity-shy Englishman Andrew Bernhardt.

On the field, the club will continue the policy implemented by Gudmundsson and his vice-chairman Asgeir Fridgeirsson - of bringing the best academy talent into the first team, signing promising youngsters from overseas and keeping a tight reign on the wage bill.

"We are not going to throw money around left and right - we don't run businesses that way," Andersen said.

The new owners expect to be in charge at West Ham for at least another two years because of the current economic climate.

"When the markets return and we get offered a decent price, as well as someone who can support the club better than we do, we will sell," Andersen said.

"We don't think it's feasible to try and sell the club at the moment though and can't realistically see anything happening in the next two years. Of course anything is for sale if the price is right, but we can't see that happening tomorrow."

Gudmundsson had been trying to find a buyer for the club since the end of last year, when his business empire began to collapse. Although there was interest from several parties, the offers they made fell dramatically short of Gudmundsson's asking price, which was initially more than £200m.Jack Collison

Not one of the buyers even reached the stage of carrying out due diligence on the club.
After the excesses of Eggert Magnusson's tenure as chairman, when West Ham lavished huge salaries on the likes of the injury-prone Freddie Ljungberg, the club now appears to be very well run.

Fridgeirsson has overseen the development of vastly improved training and medical facilities, homegrown talent such as Jack Collison, Freddie Sears and James Tomkins have made an impact in the first team and director of football Nani has made astute signings such as Valon Behrami and Herita Ilunga.

Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke have also proven an effective management team and the Hammers finished ninth in the Premier League last season.

CB Holding's promise of "more of the same" could be just what the Hammers fans want to hear.


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