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Oct 5, 2009

Portsmouth's second takeover is confirmed

ESPN Soccernet can announce that billionaire Saudi Arabian oil-rich brothers Al-Faraj, led by Ali, have completed the second takeover of Portsmouth inside 42 days, with chief executive Peter Storrie describing it "a minor miracle we've got it all down so quickly."

• Storrie delight at new owners
• Portsmouth poised for new takeover attempt
• Portsmouth: The inside Storrie

Storrie spoke after completing the deal at close to 11pm on Monday night: "It's all done, just seconds ago, and I'm knackered. The way I feel, I think I couldn't have done anymore for the club. I am so delighted."

The complexities of the takeover, involving previous owners Sacha Gaydamack and Sulaiman Al-Fahim, have finally been completed.

Fahim will retain 10 per cent of the club and hold the title of non-executive chairman, but he has no say in the running of the club and keeps his nominal title for only two years. The Al-Faraj brothers' £5m interim loan was lodged with their lawyers' client account on Friday, and will now be released on Tuesday morning to pay the players and sort out imminent creditors.

Soccernet broke the news on Saturday that the Al-Faraj brothers were on the verge of taking over the club, and chief executive Peter Storrie confirmed the story to us on Sunday morning. As Storrie further confirmed, Pompey have been close to folding on numerous occasions since the takeover of Fahim and before it, so he takes credit for saving a club by bringing in new Saudi investors.

This deal is the only one available to save the club from extinction, let alone administration.

Fahim has agreed to sell the majority of his holding to a member of one of Saudi Arabia's richest families. Ali Al-Faraj, 50, has a personal holding in billion-dollar petroleum giant Sabic. Storrie had told us that at least "30% of the £50 million" promised by Fahim was needed by October 15 to save the club - the first part of the refinancing promised by Fahim or Portsmouth faced financial meltdown.

But the club's inability to pay the players' wages heightened the fear that Fahim would fail to deliver and the club would fold.

The financial crisis was resolved by a £5 million bridging loan from the prospective new owner, while Storrie revealed that there were unpaid transfer fees owed to clubs plus at least £3 million due to agents Pini Zahavi and Jonathan Barnett.

During the summer, Al-Fahim's takeover became protracted with a longer than expected period of due diligence and scepticism grew regarding his ability to buy the club. Storrie then moved in with the Saudi connection to mount a counter takeover bid - which ultimately fell through when Fahim went ahead with his purchase from Gaydamak.

Concerns over whether Fahim, 32, could provide the finance required to service the club's crippling debts, and allow Paul Hart, the manager, to buy players in January's transfer window grew, and finally intensified when the salary for the first month of his new ownership didn't materialise.

To allay these fears, Fahim told a forum of Portsmouth supporters at a meeting held at Fratton Park 13 days ago that he would raise £50 million by the end of October. Fahim insisted that this finance would still be available. But Fahim's control of the club is now over and he holds only a token position as non executive chairman.

As well as clubs, agents and other creditors, Pompey are behind in payments to the Inland Revenue, who could threaten a winding-up order over more than £2 million in outstanding payments. The club denied claims that they had already appointed insolvency experts as Storrie was confident that new money would come into Fratton Park by Tuesday, and he has met that deadline by working around the clock.

British Virgin Islands-based company Falcondrone, whose backers include the Al Faraj family and who had a representative in the directors' box at Molineux, have bought 90% of the club from Fahim.

Falcondrone want to proceed with a deal with Gaydamak also selling them the land he owns around Fratton Park through a separate company.

Fahim bought the club and stadium from Gaydamak on August 26, and the club were already £1.7 million in arrears on PAYE and National Insurance payments. That has risen to more than £2 million and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs are threatening a court petition which could have seen the club wound up before the end of the month.

A number of clubs and agents have agreed to defer payments until the New Year thanks only to Storrie's connections in the game, but Pompey urgently had to meet everyday running costs and pay other creditors by the middle of this month.

Under the terms of Gaydamak's sale of Portsmouth to Fahim, Gaydamak had to approve any subsequent sale if it occurs before Fahim refinanced the club. Gaydamak is still providing personal guarantees for loans from Barclays Bank and the club have loans outstanding to another Gaydamak company.

The deal with Gaydamak also gave Fahim the right to buy, for £1, Miland Development (2004) Ltd, which owns various strategic pockets of land around the ground, once he has refinanced the club. The club is an attractive proposition only if it comes with ownership of that land.

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