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