Gianni Paladini angry with Carson Yeung over sale of Birmingham City

Gianni Paladini, ex-boss of another English soccer club, angry deal hasn't gone through

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 November, 2013, 6:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 November, 2013, 6:01am

As if Carson Yeung Ka-sing's current money-laundering trial wasn't causing enough trouble for the Hong Kong businessman, an Italian millionaire has now claimed that he signed an agreement to buy Yeung's English soccer club, Birmingham City, but that the deal isn't completed.

Gianni Paladini, the former chairman of Queen's Park Rangers, said he agreed with acting chairman and chief of parent company Birmingham International Holdings Peter Pannu last month to buy the club. Paladini claimed Pannu flew back to Hong Kong after a recent visit to Birmingham to put the proposal - believed to be worth £20 million (HK$249 million) - to Yeung, but after weeks of waiting the deal had still not gone through.

In an interview with Birmingham's Free Radio 80s, Paladini spoke of his frustration that the deal had not been completed.

"Before the game against Bolton [on October 5], I believed we had done the deal," Paladini said. "We were asked for proof of funds, which we provided. I have done everything they have asked me to do. The deal was done. I have got proof, signed by me and Peter Pannu. We came to an agreement. Peter Pannu left [for Hong Kong] … and I believed that the reason was to go and tell Carson Yeung about the deal. I haven't had one reply. I'm very disappointed that I have been treated really badly. It's very unprofessional. I have spent 15 months trying to do this."

In September 2012, a reported offer of £12 million by an Italian consortium led by Paladini was rejected by Pannu and the Birmingham board. Two months later, Pannu received a second, improved offer from the Italians to buy the club which, like Queen's Park Rangers, plays in the Championship, England's second-tier league.

Paladini told the British media that the sale was a done deal. Pannu flatly denied this. Fifteen months on, Paladini is still hoping an agreement can be reached.

"I'd fly to Hong Kong tomorrow to meet Carson Yeung or Peter Pannu. Anyone who has got the power to say, 'This is the deal, we agree, let's do it'," he said.

Neither Pannu, a lawyer and former Hong Kong policeman, nor Yeung were available for comment, but Birmingham City FC issued a statement saying they were disappointed to learn of Paladini's comments and considered them to be "misleading and unhelpful".

"Mr Yeung still wishes to preserve the listing status of the club's parent company, Birmingham International Holdings Limited, in Hong Kong, a point that had already been relayed to Mr Paladini's representatives," the statement read. "Any formal developments regarding the ownership of the football club will be announced via the Hong Kong Stock Exchange first and foremost, in keeping with respective rules and regulations, and will not be played out through the media."

Yeung's money-laundering trial has been under way for weeks in the District Court. The hairdresser turned businessman denies five counts of money laundering totalling HK$721 million, which allegedly took place between January 2001 and December 2007.

Yeung, 53, claims to have amassed wealth of up to HK$100 million in 2000 from running upmarket hair salons and from property investments in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong and stock dealings.