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