Carson Yeung's Birmingham City reject takeover bid
Birmingham City snub Italian consortium's bid and search for buyer as tycoon awaits trial
Officials of Birmingham City have ridiculed a bid from an Italian consortium to buy the English soccer club from troubled Hong Kong tycoon Carson Yeung Ka-sing.
Gianni Paladini, the former chairman of Premier League club Queen's Park Rangers, confirmed to British media last week that he heads the consortium seeking to take over Birmingham, who play in English soccer's second tier, the Championship.
He said the offer was for considerably more than £12 million (HK$150.7 million), the sum that Birmingham's board was reported to have rejected.
Paladini said he could not go into any details as everything was in the hands of lawyers, but was hopeful of striking a deal.
The cash-strapped club's troubles were compounded when Yeung was arrested in June last year on five counts of money laundering involving HK$723 million.
In September last year, the club was thrown a lifeline by a loan of up to HK$80 million from Yang Yuezhou, the newly- appointed deputy chairman of its parent company, Birmingham International Holdings (BIHL).
But this has not been enough to guarantee its financial security.
Yeung's assets have been frozen, he was ordered to give up his house in Barker Road, The Peak, after allegedly defaulting on the mortgage and has been barred from leaving Hong Kong.
In June, British newspapers reported that Yang had also quit as a BIHL director and that shares in the company had been suspended by the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Acting Birmingham City chairman Peter Pannu, a lawyer and former Hong Kong policeman, has been on the lookout for a new investor to buy the club.
But he said Paladini's statement could not be further from the truth and his offer was not given serious consideration.
"If he thinks he can get Birmingham City at the price he's talking about he is living in cloud cuckoo land," Pannu said.
"I think he's just playing with the media. All these deals are preceded by a confidential non-disclosure agreement.
"If he's really genuine he would have done this and not made these statements through the media. But he hasn't so I don't even want to go to the [British media and respond to it.
"We're speaking to many interested parties and he's certainly not in the running as I see it.
"I've spoken to many interested parties, but I have not had any contact with this particular Italian gentleman myself."
Paladini was quoted in Friday's Birmingham Mail as saying he thought it had been difficult for Birmingham as Pannu had been away in Hong Kong.
He said it was not easy to run a club from a distance, communicating through e-mails and phone calls.
"That's what happens when you have owners who are based in Hong Kong. If we succeed, I would be around and in this country," Paladini told the Mail.
He said although he had a business in London, his home was in Solihull, Birmingham, and it would be easy for him to be at the club's stadium, St Andrew's, on a regular basis.
However, Birmingham City's public relations and social media manager Andy Walker did not share this opinion.
"Mr Pannu's regular dealings in Hong Kong have no impact on his running of the club, as he has a more-than-capable senior management team based at St Andrew's with whom he is in regular contact," Walker said.
He confirmed it was "no secret" that fresh investment was being sought for the club on the right terms, but that Paladini did not come into the equation.
Last month, Yeung was stopped from attending his father's funeral on the mainland after a High Court judge refused to amend bail conditions that forbid him leaving Hong Kong.
Yeung's father moved to Shenzhen for cancer treatment, but died in July aged 77.
Yeung is due to stand trial in November on the five money laundering charges.