Ex-soccer boss confident he'll get money back

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 February, 2012, 12:00am


Hong Kong businessman Balram Chainrai is confident he will get his money back after Portsmouth Football Club - which he used to own - plunged back into financial crisis last week.

Chainrai, whose reign at the English Football League Championship club ended last April, even stepped in last month with the cash to make sure the players got paid.

When Chainrai struck a deal 10 months ago for the Russian consortium Convers Sport Initiatives to take over ownership of Portsmouth FC, it was agreed his HK$200 million loan to the club would be repaid over a period of time.

However, Convers entered administration in November, forcing the club to search for new owners, and a winding-up petition was issued last month. The club's bank accounts have now been frozen.

Administrator Andrew Andronikou revealed that Portsmouth had missed two tax payments of GBP800,000 (HK$9.8 million) to British Revenue and Customs.

However, Chainrai maintained: 'I'm still in a good position. I still have a debenture over the club as security on the club's full assets, so one way or another I'm going to get my money back. But I don't want to see the club liquidated. Anything I can do to help Portsmouth I will.'

He backed this up when he and his Israeli business partner, Levi Kushnir, made up the shortfall on the salaries due to the players for January. 'Not many people would do this, but we wanted to help sustain the club through this difficult period,' said Chainrai, 51. 'I've very happy memories of Portsmouth FC and don't want to see it go under.'

He briefly owned the English side before they went into administration in February 2010. And when the club won their battle against the tax authorities that August, it left him free to buy back Portsmouth with Kushnir and save them from liquidation.

Chainrai's company, Portpin, initially took over the 90 per cent shareholding in Portsmouth held by previous owner Ali al-Faraj after the club allegedly missed deadlines for repayments on GBP17 million borrowed from Chainrai.

'I travel to the UK [in the next few days] and I'll do whatever I can do to help them,' Chainrai said. 'I'll get a better idea of how things stand when I get there.'

More help came from an unlikely source when British Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons last Wednesday that it was vital Portsmouth FC continued and that Revenue and Customs should meet the club to discuss its tax bill.