Portsmouth changes hands again as CSI takes over

Portsmouth changed hands again Wednesday after the English club
was bought by a sports group controlled by Russian businessman
Vladimir Antonov.

Portsmouth said in a statement that Convers Sports Initiatives
bought 100 percent of the League Championship side’s shares, with
the takeover from Hong Kong-based businessman Balram Chainrai
approved by the Football League.

CSI, which lists the World Rally Championship, the Velux 5
Oceans yacht race and PowerPlay Golf among its acquisitions, said
it held negotiations with several teams in England’s top three
divisions and the Scottish Premier League before opting to buy
Portsmouth.

”We ultimately selected Portsmouth Football Club because of its
history, loyal fan base and its potential to return to the Premier
League,” Antonov said. ”The supporters are amongst the most
passionate in the game and that gives the business a strong
foundation to build on.”

Neither Portsmouth nor CSI gave financial details of the
takeover.

Hampered by relatively slim match-day revenue at its 20,000-seat
Fratton Park stadium, Portsmouth’s fortunes plummeted when
Alexandre Gaydamak withdrew the financial backing that had allowed
the purchase of a squad strong enough to win the 2008 FA Cup.

After three years under the control of Gaydamak, Portsmouth
passed through the hands of Sulaiman Al Fahim, Ali Al-Faraj and
Chainrai in the 2009-10 season as it was relegated from the Premier
League in financial ruin.

To avoid liquidation, Portsmouth sold or released almost an
entire squad of players and became the first Premier League club to
be placed in bankruptcy protection.

The Premier League even tightened its financial rules after
Portsmouth ran up debts of more than 100 million pounds ($159
million) to creditors including the British government’s revenue
and customs authority.

”We would also like to thank Mr. Chainrai and his executive
management team for their stewardship of Portsmouth Football Club
through one of the most difficult times in its history,” Antonov
said.

Portsmouth finished 16th in the League Championship, its first
year in the second tier since 2002-03.

Three years after its squad included internationals including
Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Lassana Diarra and Nwankwo Kanu,
Portsmouth’s most-used players this season were the relatively
unheralded Jamie Ashdown, Hayden Mullins, David Nugent, Dave Kitson
and Joel Ward.

Stuart Condie can be reached at
http://twitter.com/StuartCondieAP