Friday, 3 February 2012

The murky characters that have blighted the name of Portsmouth FC part III

What’s the story in Balamory wouldn’t you like to know? Miss Hoolie would have locked herself in the school cupboard by now at the names that have already been mentioned. Two men banned from holding Directorships for seven years; two counts of being on the brink of bankruptcy and another one not far off; two men on trial for tax evasion, one wanted arms dealer and a son who spends the banks money faster than an F1 car in full flight who stands accused of asset stripping. If this does get turned into a TV documentary series one day I won’t be watching because it was painful enough watching the scenes unfold in public as it was but being Pompey we couldn’t let things lie there. As always as one man leaves there’s a magnetic draw pulling in another.

Sulaiman Al-Fahim

In March 2009, Al-Fahim was listed fourth in Arabian business magazine's list of "The World's most influential Arabs. In September 2008 as part of the Abu Dhabi United Group of which he was a board member he was present as they completed the purchase of Manchester City. In the Arab world he was known for being the presenter on their version of The Apprentice. Piers Morgan has done a TV interview with the man in which he bragged about his personal wealth and was pictured driving open top sports cars and flying on private business jets. So when he arrived saying he wanted to take over Portsmouth FC it seemed at first we’d somehow managed to avoid a possible financial meltdown and that the good times would continue to roll.

In May 2009 it was reported that Al-Fahim had agreed a deal with owner Sacha Gaydamak to buy the club in a deal worth £60 million once the process of due diligence had taken place and he’d passed the Fit and Proper persons Test. Three months passed with fans starting to wonder what on earth was going on. News was circulating that CEO Peter Storrie had come up with his own consortium and was trying to purchase the club. Final at the end of August 2009 Al-Fahim or the twat in the hand as many dubbed him finally took over as owner of the club.

At the start of October it was reported that the wages of the first team players hadn’t been pained. The warning lights started to flash around the footballing world. A day later it was reported that Al-Fahim was in hospital in Dubai. By the 5th of October after just 40 days in charge of the club, Al-Fahim sold 90% of his shares to Ali al-Faraj. Al-Fahim claimed that he has sold the shares for £70 million and had managed to retain all of the club’s real estate assets although it was soon alleged that he hadn’t received a penny. In February 2010 a Dubai court issued a warrant to arrest Al-Fahim over a dispute of over just £1.4 million.

Pompey fans worldwide were all asking what the hell was going on. In just 40 days we’d managed to have three owners. What had just happened? Did this new man have any money? Were the players going to get paid? Just how much financial trouble were we in?

Peter Storrie

One man that knew the answer to those questions better than any other was the CEO Peter Storrie, the man who helped steady the rudder as he anchored the ship onto the rocky shores and watched as it began to sink pointing the finger of blame at everyone whilst proclaiming he was the messiah and was doing everything he could to help save the club. To believe him you’d have thought that he only slept ten minutes a day and that the future was in his hands. As panic set around Fratton Park for a time the fans believed what he was saying to. Everyone was taken in. The man who it transpires managed to get a win / draw bonus put into his contract despite being a fat overpaid lard arse and not kicking a bin in anger let alone a ball on the pitch, had at the start of the troubles the backing of the fans and his name was sung at Fratton Park. By the end of his departure fans weren’t singing his name far from it.

Storrie was the man who managed to draw up some of the very worst footballing contracts in the history of English football but it seems he was very good at negotiating his own fairy tale contracts for himself in much the same manner as Manager Harry Redknapp had down when negotiating to receive a percentage of player sales for those players sold in profit. Somehow Storrie has managed to snag himself a bonus of £3,000 every time the club won and £1,500 for every time they drew. Impressive work if you can get it when you consider he was CEO. Storrie was the CEO who wrote into all the players contracts the win bonus for the FA Cup which ended up costing us a fortune. He said they were put in because he never expected the club to win the FA Cup. I wonder what they had written in if we were to win the league? Why would you spend millions on transfers and wages in the hope of not winning anything? It wasn’t just the players who’d been promised ridiculous bonuses to. The clubs whose players we’d purchased were also promised additional revenues if the players they’d sold achieved certain levels of success such as winning the FA Cup. ‘You want another £500,000 if we win the FA Cup? Sure why not. Just sign here.’

Because of Storrie’s naivety the FA Cup win was estimated to have cost the club an additional £3 to £4 million pounds with Chelsea and Rennes understood to have benefited to the tune of £1 million between them both.

Storrie at the height of the financial mess he’d played his part in was being paid £600,000 a year which made him the highest paid CEO in English football. He had received substantial bonuses during his time with the club including £750,000 when we won the FA Cup and £500,000 for the money he had brought into the club during January 2009 when the financial chaos had really started to kick in. Ever the hero though he didn’t take the bonus until the August of 2009.
When Sacha stopped putting money into the club Pompey owed the banks £44 million and the wage bill stood at around the £4.5 million mark every month. Players were quickly moved on trying to generate revenue but sell on clauses meant that the club wasn’t receiving all the transfer fees. Arsenal for example were owed £4.5 million from the sale of Diarra to Real Madrid and Chelsea the same from the sale of Johnson to Liverpool.

Under the FA’s football Agents regulation G15 clubs must publish how much they spent on agent’s fees. From October 1st 2008 to September 30th 2009 Pompey paid out £3,184,725 to agents.

Someone asked me the other day if we sold so much talent for so much money where did it all go? Well when you start to add it all up; £44 million to the banks, £3.1 million to agents, £9 million to Arsenal and Chelsea for Diarra and Johnson, an estimated annual wage of £54 million. Bonuses such as £750,000 being paid to Storrie for winning the FA Cup, £500,000 for overseeing the sale of players to pay off the banks and a manager whose salary was £4.2 million a year. You’ve got 18 players and 1 CEO on win bonuses of £3,000 and £1,500 for every draw. This isn’t mentioning the money we weren’t paying the Inland Revenue or the transfer fee’s we’d paid for the players in the first place.

Storrie claims that he was the innocent party and that he tried to warn people what was happening at the club. He certainly was well paid for the mess he made. Like Milan Mandaric and Harry Redknapp he has been charged with tax evasion by the HRMC in relation to a payment made to agent Willie McKay.

Ali Al-Faraj

Al-Faraj or Al-Mirage as he was subsequently nicknamed by the loyal Pompey following took over the club from the hands of Al-Fahim. The £5 million that Al-Fahim had put into the club hadn’t stretched far. It transpires that Al-Fahim wasn’t the principle investor in Portsmouth. A consortium has promised an injection or around £50 million into the club. When the accountants saw what a mess the club was in they understandably ran as fast as they could. This had left Al-Fahim holding the baby with his pants around his ankles for all the Arab world to see.

So enter Al-Faraj the supposed billionaire Arab that no one in the Arab business world knew anything about. Storrie releasing that all wasn’t well as Al-Fahim struggled to raise the finance to fund the club contacted the agent Pini Zahavi who had helped broker the deal which took Roman Abramovich to Chelsea in had pocketed £5 million in the process. He had suggested approaching Mark Jacob a property lawyer with some interesting contacts in the property world.

By this time Redknapp had scurried off to Tottenham and results on the pitch were getting worse and the players weren’t getting paid so the news of a property investor who also held a stake in Chemical firm Sabic must have been music to the ears of those still at Pompey.

A deal was struck with Al-Fahim where he was promised that he would be repaid his £5 million at a later stage at that he could keep 10% of the shares as equity and collateral. Allegedly he considered this a very good deal at the time. Good old Sir David Richards over at the Premier League rubber stamped the Fit and Proper Persons test and Al-Mirage was now in charge.

Any proper checks carried out would have shown that Al-Mirage wasn’t a share holder in Sabic as it’s owned by the Saudi Arabian government. Once more the Fit and Proper Persons test had failed and moreover it had failed Pompey.
With the outstanding wages finally paid off £1.8 million Al-Mirage never did show his face at Fratton Park. Certain other characters did however show their faces.

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