UK

Blackburn Rovers takeover bidder told to cease trading

Blackburn Rovers stadium, Ewood Park
Image caption Ahsan Ali Syed pledged to invest £300m into Blackburn Rovers football club.

A company run by the man linked to the proposed £300m takeover of Blackburn Rovers has been told to cease trading.

Bahrain's trade and commerce ministry said it closed a Bahrain-based company after it violated regulations by operating outside its remit.

BBC 5 live has learned the company is Western Gulf Advisory, run by Indian investor Ahsan Ali Syed.

Western Gulf Advisory said the Blackburn bid is being managed by a separate company, and is unaffected.

The precise details of the offence are unclear, but it is understood that Western Gulf Advisory fell foul of Bahrain's central bank, which refused to sanction its activities.

It has been reported that Mr Ali is planning to invest £300m into Blackburn Rovers, pledging an additional £100m to fund transfers.

Mr Ali also runs a Swiss-based company, Western Gulf Advisory AG, based in Zug.

The 5 live Investigates programme has been told it is this Swiss entity which is managing the takeover plans, and not the Bahrain-based company.

Private investor

Mr Ali's personal wealth has been reported to be between £3bn and £8bn. He said he would be investing his personal wealth into the club, through his Swiss firm, and he would be the sole investor.

The takeover bid is being negotiated by Western Gulf AG's European investment team, which is currently involved in the creation of a new Europe-based firm, WGA Sports, which will oversee all Mr Ali's sports investments.

According to its company website, Western Gulf Advisory provides services relating to asset and wealth management and Mr Ali's family has been involved in private sector lending across Asia for 150 years.

Despite his reported wealth, little is known about Mr Ali, and he has not featured in the Forbes Rich List.

Mr Ali claims he and his company are experts in buying under-performing companies and turning them into profitable enterprises.

He is known to be involved in other takeover bids of companies outside of football, including the Irish construction company McCabe and the Australian cotton producer, Cubbie Station.

However, when probed about his other investments when talking to the BBC last week, Mr Ali said he preferred to keep such information private to protect his investors. Western Gulf Advisory claims to act as financial adviser to sovereign wealth, royalty and many wealthy individuals.

A spokesman for the Barclays Premier League said they had not received any formal notification regarding a takeover of Blackburn Rovers, and would not conduct any investigation into the suitability of any potential investor until such a time.

Once notice of a takeover is received the Premier League then has 10 days to carry out a means and abilities test of the company planning the investment, which includes the owners and directors.

It is only after such tests have been completed that a decision on whether to sanction a takeover will be made.

A spokesperson for Mr Ali said negotiations with Blackburn Rovers' advisors were proceeding very well, and Western Gulf Advisory AG would soon be approaching the Premier League to complete the necessary paperwork.

Blackburn Rovers did not respond to a request for a comment on the development.

Adrian Goldberg presents the new series 5 live Investigates on BBC 5 live. The first programme will broadcast at 2100BST on Sunday, 5th September.

If you have a story for the programme team, email: goldberg@bbc.co.uk

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