Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

West Ham United attracts 'lots' of potential buyers

By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News

Arsenal v West Ham
West Ham's owners say they do not have to sell up

The company that owns West Ham United has confirmed "a lot of people have shown an interest" in acquiring all or part of the London football club.

CB Holding acquired the club last year after its Icelandic owners went bust.

The owner has now hired Rothschild Bank to sound out potential investors in the Premier League club and says it has held "talks with a number of parties".

Reported suitors include London finance company Intermarket and Asian tycoon Tony Fernandes.

Former Birmingham City owners David Gold and David Sullivan are also reported to have shown an interest in the Hammers.

Tight-lipped

CB Holding, whose biggest shareholder is Icelandic bank Straumur, would neither confirm or deny the names of any potential buyers but said it had signed a number of interested parties to a confidentiality agreement not to reveal the progress of negotiations.

Our strategy is not to take money out of the club
CB Holdings

However, last week Intermarket indicated that it hoped to put forward a bid for the club this week.

Since then Intermarket has not made any comment except to confirm that it has been in talks with Rothschilds.

Meanwhile, West Ham's owners say they do not have to sell.

"We are looking for a good price for the club, we are in no hurry to sell, and under no pressure to do so," said a spokesman for CB Holding.

"If we decided on a buyer or a specific partner for the club, we would make sure we did whatever was best for West Ham United."

He said the club was not putting a price on either the whole club or portions of it.

'No pressure'

A bid from former Birmingham City co-owner David Sullivan in December was reportedly worth £46m for a 50% controlling stake in West Ham.

CB Holding also says that there is no pressure on West Ham to sell players in the current transfer window to raise cash for its owners.

"If they do sell players then that money will be available to the manager [Gianfranco Zola] to buy further players for his squad," the spokesman said.

"Our strategy is not to take money out of the club."

Chief shareholder Straumur has been bailed out by its own government , but the bank's position became more secure in December when a moratorium on its debt repayments was extended until September 2010.

But with West Ham skirting the relegation zone it may be in the owners' interest to secure a sale of the club now rather than risk relegation and a drop in the potential selling price.



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