Blackburn suitor faces Bahrain business probe

An Indian businessman in talks to purchase the English Premier
League club Blackburn said Tuesday that he is cooperating with
investigators in Bahrain after reports his company was shut down by
fiscal regulators.

The probe could raise questions about whether Ahasan Ali Syed
can move ahead with efforts to acquire the northwest England team,
which granted him exclusive negotiating rights earlier this
month.

But Julia Thiem, a spokeswoman for Ali Syed’s investment firm
Western Gulf Advisory, said it would not affect his bid for Rovers.
She said the deal was being put together through Ali Syed’s
European holdings and not the Bahrain-based company.

”It has no influence on the takeover bid, no influence on
negotiations as we are acquiring the club from our European
entities and in the name of Mr. Ahsan Ali Syed,” Thiem said. ”We
are still hopeful that we can approach the Premier League by the
end of this week or the beginning of next week.”

Thiem also denied reports that the Bahrain company’s business
was suspended, saying it was operating normally Tuesday.

But a Bahraini trade official, Hameed Yousif Rahma, was quoted
by the Al Wasat newspaper earlier this week saying that regulators
ordered its closure for not having the proper permits to operate in
the country.

A statement by Ali Syed said he is ”cooperating fully” with
investigators.

”The Bahraini authorities have asked for clarification on WGA’s
investment activities,” he said, suggesting that authorities are
looking into the company’s structure and records.

”There is no hidden investor or any outside wealth involved in
any way in the investment activities of Western Gulf Advisory,” he
added.

Ali Syed, who says he is a longtime Blackburn fan, will
reportedly pay off the club’s 20 million pounds ($31.8 million;
?24.2 million) of debt and invest 300 million pounds ($462.4;
?363.2 million) into the club. He also has reportedly earmarked 80
million pounds ($123 million, ?97 million) for new players.

A number of consortiums have contacted the Jack Walker Trustees
over the last three years including one from ex-JJB Sports chief
executive Chris Ronnie, and another based in Iceland. In June
another Indian entrepreneur, Saurin Shah, was reportedly prepared
to bid for the club but nothing came of it.

Ali Syed’s bid marks the latest sign that Gulf businessmen are
looking to invest in European soccer clubs.

Premier League rival Manchester City is owned by Sheik Mansour
bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi while Qatari sheik Abdullah Bin
Nasser Al-Thani became the new owner of struggling Spanish league
club Malaga in June.

Western Gulf has separate operations based in Switzerland and
investments in other countries including Ireland and Australia.