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Jan 16, 2010

West Ham's debts reach £110 million mark

West Ham's debt has spiralled to an out-of-control £110 million, according to a City insider who has been close to the takeover process at Upton Park.

The debts were reported to be anything from £45 million to £60 million but Soccernet has been told the figure is now £110 million, including £40 million owed to other clubs at home and abroad in deferred transfer payments.

A source said: "The 'real' debt of West Ham is £110 million, they owe £40 million to other clubs. It's far worse than anyone realises, although the debt is spread out over three or four years.

"The club urgently needs a fresh injection of capital and the takeover is now only days away, and I would suspect it won't happen now until the early part of next week.

"It has to happen before the transfer window closes as the manager wants a couple of new players, but it's not just a question of the fees, but also the escalating wages, and January is not always the best time to buy the players you really want.

"The feeling is that Zola can keep them in the Premier League, but he needs to be able to keep the players he's got and bring in a couple now."

There is now £60 million on the table to revitalise the club, and it is expected that that the deal is now just days away from completion.

Soccernet had been told the takeover would be wrapped up before the weekend, but the delay has been caused by a third party joining the bidding along with Tony Fernandes and the combination of David Sullivan and David Gold.

Fernandes is leading the charge, but hotly pursued by former Birmingham City owners Gold and David, with Massimo Cellino, a property developer based in Miami, making a late bid.

Fernandes, the team principal of Team Lotus, the Formula One team, and founder of Air Asia, has already outlined his plans in detail, and has made a very impressive pitch.

Debts are spiralling out of control since the collapse of Landsbanki, the Icelandic bank in which Björgólfur Gudmundsson, the former owner of West Ham, held a 41% stake.

Hammers fan and Malaysian businessman Fernandes is marginally ahead of Gold and Sullivan, but no one has given up the ghost of winning the takeover race.

Although Soccernet was told that Cellino's bid was late, and came with baggage, the Italian, who is rumoured to want his Zola sacked, claims to have made the biggest bid for the club in quotes attributed to him by the Italian website Calciomercato.

He is reputed to have commented: "I thought I would have everything concluded straight away; I've shown that my offer was serious. Now there are some minor delays, they're checking the paperwork. Maybe they didn't think I would come in with the best offer."

Cellino, though, has failed to convince the consortium of five banks who are West Ham's principal creditors that he would be a sound long- term partner in the club, but they might take the risk as his offer is in excess of the other two.

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