Czech billionaire in talks to take minority stake in West Ham

Sparta Prague president Daniel Kretinsky could buy 27% share from Gold and Sullivan

Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky is known as the ‘Czech sphinx’ for his inscrutable business manner. Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP via Getty Images

Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky is known as the ‘Czech sphinx’ for his inscrutable business manner. Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP via Getty Images

 

The Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky is in talks with West Ham over a deal to buy a minority stake. The co-owners, David Sullivan and David Gold, have been looking for investment for some years but have turned down offers to sell outright.

Discussions with Kretinsky have taken place over the past 12 months and it is understood that the 46-year-old could buy a large shareholding, believed to be about 27 per cent. Sources have played down suggestions that a deal would automatically lead to Kretinsky buying out Sullivan and Gold.

Kretinsky is known as the “Czech sphinx” for his inscrutable business manner and is the co-owner and president of Sparta Prague. A qualified lawyer, he has a number of other investments, including stakes in Royal Mail, Sainsbury’s and France’s Le Monde newspaper.

West Ham have rejected two bids in the past 12 months from PAI Capital, a private equity firm headed by Nasib Piriyev, and turned down offers from a US consortium last year. In both cases a majority holding was sought.

Sullivan and Gold would welcome investment from a minority shareholder who can inject funds as they try to build on the progress made under David Moyes in the past two seasons.

West Ham are in the Europa League, sit fourth in the Premier League and on Wednesday reached the Carabao Cup quarter-finals by knocking out Manchester City. The pandemic has hit finances in football hard and West Ham posted a £65 million (€76m) loss in the financial year to May 2020.

The deal under which West Ham moved to the London Stadium includes an agreement that Sullivan and Gold will have to pay financial penalties to the taxpayer if the club is sold before March 2023. West Ham pay £2.5 million a year to rent the stadium and this week received permission to install an extra 2,500 seats, bring the capacity to 62,500.

Sullivan owns 51.5 per cent of West Ham, Gold 35.1 per cent and Tripp Smith 10 per cent, with other investors holding 3.4 per cent. The club and a spokesperson for Kretinsky declined to comment. – Guardian

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