SOCCER

Key figures in Birmingham City's Hong Kong parent firm are sacked then reinstated

Key figures in soccer club's HK parent firm are sacked at AGM - then reappointed

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 January, 2015, 4:53am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 January, 2015, 4:53am

The embattled Hong Kong parent firm of English soccer club Birmingham City has experienced another tumultuous week of boardroom intrigue as factional infighting saw key figures fired and rehired within days.

Shareholders of Birmingham International Holdings - the former company of jailed money launderer Carson Yeung Ka-sing - on Tuesday attended their annual general meeting in a Tuen Mun hotel, where they voted to remove executive director and fans' favourite Panos Pavlakis from the business.

They also re-elected Hong Kong businessman Peter Pannu, the right-hand man of Yeung who was dismissed as chief executive last month amid a furore over postings made under Pannu's name on a blog.

The very next day, board members loyal to Pavlakis hosted a snap meeting and pushed through his reappointment with two others who had also been dismissed during the AGM.

Pannu condemned the reappointment as a "dire abuse of directorial powers".

Hairdresser turned multimillionaire Yeung is serving a six-year sentence in Stanley Prison for laundering HK$721 million. He resigned from Birmingham International following his conviction last year, but maintained his majority stake and was therefore entitled to vote by proxy at the annual meeting.

Following Yeung's departure, Pannu took the reins of the company, but riled fans and investors when lengthy posts appeared on fan website Often Partisan.

The posts suggested Birmingham City Football Club could soon run out of money and that Yeung still wielded influence over its decision-making. Trading in the Hong Kong-listed company was halted as a result of the posts.

Pannu had also accused another board member of misappropriating funds.

The AGM decision to relieve Pavlakis and to re-elect Pannu shows the former Hong Kong policeman still has Yeung's support. With a nearly 30 per cent stake, Yeung would have been able to exert considerable influence.

The outcome of the meeting sent ripples through the Birmingham City fan base, with one supporters' group expressing disappointment.

"In recent months, the situation at the club has somewhat stabilised following the appointment of Panos," the Blues Trust wrote. "Every effort had been made to ensure that Peter Pannu was not re-elected to the board of BIHL.

"We are also very conscious of comments made by Mr Pannu on the Often Partisan website concerning Carson Yeung, intimating that Yeung is continuing to act as a shadow director of the board despite his conviction."

The changes were short-lived, however, as Pavlakis supporters called that snap board meeting the next morning.