Blackburn Rovers takeover man Syed left UK debt trail

The Indian businessman hoping to take over Blackburn Rovers has left a trail of unpaid debt in the UK.

Records show Ahsan Ali Syed has failed to pay a county court judgement of £61,500. Other debts include £7,800 in unpaid rent and nearly £1,000 in unpaid council tax.

Mr Ali is also listed as director of two UK companies which were dissolved for non-compliance.

Mr Ali's lawyer said some of the BBC's allegations are false and misleading.

Mr Ali lived in England between 2001 and 2005, saying he was here "enjoying family life".

Companies House records show one of his earliest listed addresses was in Colchester, Essex. However, the owner of the property said that Mr Ali has had no connection with the address.

Congestion charge

Mr Ali did live in a rented flat in London's West End. The letting agent, Abdur Karim Ali, said Mr Ali "was a very good tenant, very quiet, until 2004 and he started delaying paying his rent."

Image copyright Other
Image caption Ahsan Ali Syed left his London home in 2005, owing £7,800 in rent

Mr Ali suddenly vacated the London apartment in May 2005 owing approximately £7,800 in unpaid rent.

The letting agent said the man now hoping to buy Blackburn Rovers also left the flat littered with unopened mail and shredded documents.

"It was in a very, very bad condition. Everything was turned upside down."

Mr Ali did not leave a forwarding address, and the agent said he had hired solicitors to try and track down his former tenant, but they could not find him.

The BBC has discovered that other parties were also seeking Mr Ali for unpaid debts.

Registry Trust records show that Mr Ali is yet to settle a £61,500 "unsatisfied" - or unpaid - county court judgement made against him in 2007. Specific details of this judgement are not known.

Other debts that appear to be outstanding include an unpaid London congestion charge fine. Bailiffs were also seeking Mr Ali for unpaid Council Tax totalling £932.25.

Dissolved companies

Mr Ali says he has assets of about $3bn (£1.9bn) and the website of his Bahrain based company, Western Gulf Advisory, says he "plays a role in the management and the boards of over 133 companies worldwide".

As far as Mr Ali's UK business interests, the BBC could only find records linking him to two companies in London.

In 2001, he registered as a director of Grovebridge Investments. Five years later Companies House wrote to the company's directors, asking if it was still trading because no returns had been submitted.

Grovebridge Investments Limited was struck off in September 2006.

Mr Ali was also a director of All Star Foods, which was dissolved in 2004 - again because no returns were filed.

According to information published by Mr Ali's company, Western Gulf Advisory, he purchased a Canadian company between 2003 and 2004, for C$565,000 (£352,000) and sold it 16 months later for C$8m.

When asked about his Canadian interests, Mr Ali told the BBC that he had two Canada-based businesses: Western Gulf Petroleum and Western Gulf Investments, which were founded in 2004/5.

Just as in Britain, official records show these companies were dissolved for failure to file returns.

'Royal adviser'

Earlier this week, the BBC revealed that Mr Ali's Bahrain based investment company, Western Gulf Advisory, was ordered to cease trading by the country's Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Ali has pledged a £100m transfer pot to Rovers' boss Sam Allardyce

While the company initially denied the claims, Mr Ali has since been quoted as saying that he is co-operating fully with the authorities in the Middle Eastern state.

Mr Ali has stressed that it is not his Bahrain-based company that is leading the takeover bid, but his Swiss based firm, Western Gulf Advisory-AG and his takeover bid remains unaffected.

According to his company website, Mr Ali has been self-employed since the age of 16, following in the footsteps of his family, which has 150 years' experience in private sector lending across Asia.

His company CV says Mr Ali's expertise is highly recognised in the financial world and that he acts as adviser to royalty and many high net-worth individuals.

Mr Ali has told the BBC he hails from Bhongir, a town with a population of 50,000, near Hyderabad in India. It is here, he says, his family owned 900 acres of farm land, making their money through agriculture.

However, Joseph Antony who writes for The Hindu newspaper says that Mr Ali is seemingly an unknown figure in his hometown - surprising given his apparent wealth.


He was told by a director working in the Government of Andhra Pradesh, that Mr. Ali's name does not figure in any of the records pertaining to the Bhongir area.

Sources in Bahrain suggest that he is similarly unheralded in Bahrain's financial circles.

Reports suggest that Mr Ali plans to invest £300m at Blackburn Rovers, who have fallen on hard times since winning the Premier League in 1995.

The club's success was bankrolled by local tycoon, Jack Walker. In recent years, Rovers have been financed by a trust set up by Mr Walker before his death in 2000. The club is now rumoured to be £20m in debt.

A number of overseas investors have shown an interest in buying Rovers, but Mr Ali's bid has made the greatest progress.

A Blackburn Rovers Football Club spokesman said: "The club has been for sale for some time and, for it to remain competitive in one of the world's toughest sporting competitions, we accept that new investment is required.

"Equally, the trustees of the late Jack Walker, who are being professionally advised, and the club's board of directors are acutely aware of the responsibility involved in passing the club to a new owner."

Prior to the broadcast of the full report on BBC 5 live on Sunday, 5 September 2010, the 5 live Investigates team submitted repeated requests for an interview with Mr Ali, but was told he was unavailable for comment. Western Gulf Advisory also failed to respond to a request for a written statement.

On Friday, 10 September, 2010 a lawyer representing Western Gulf Advisory-AG issued the following statement:

"The BBC's report contained a number of false and misleading allegations. In particular, there is no basis for the suggestion that Mr Ali had a questionable track record in business and a 'colourful financial history' such that he is unsuitable to take over Blackburn Rovers Football Club.

"In fact, Western Gulf Advisory AG is a well capitalised company and has US$850 million available in liquid assets for investment purposes. Both Western Gulf Advisory AG and Mr Ali remain committed to expanding their investments in the UK."

This edition of 5 live Investigates was broadcast on BBC Radio 5 live at 2100BST on Sunday, 5 September. Subscribe to the programme podcast. Email

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