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HALL RIGHT NOW: The men who would run Pompey and why they shouldn't... #1
HALL RIGHT NOW: The men who would run Pompey and why they shouldn't... #1
Monday, 11th Feb 2013 13:13 by Micah Hall

So the Keith Harris campaign has refused to accept the definitive judgement of the Football League and his PR team has instead apparently been ringing round journalists over the weekend boasting of having '£3m' for a 'transfer budget'.

Leaving aside the fact that such a war-chest would fall foul of the league's newly-introduced salary cost management protocol - even if you had '£3m' to spend on transfers you wouldn't be able to pay them a commensurate salary in League 2 - the first point to make is that the first we heard of a possible rival bid to the PST's was when Portpin announced it at a recent creditors meeting. This bid apparently came to PKF with agreement in place to lease the stadium direct from Portpin. Surely a better use of a spare £3m would be to buy Fratton Park - which is what the PST bid proposes - rather than spending out unnecessary money on renting a stadium which can be owned from Day One?

Anyway. Let's have a look at as the track record of the proposed investors in this consortium, starting with front man Keith Harris.

Harris's Seymour Pierce business went into administration on Friday of last week appointing Grant Thornton as administrators. Cantor Fitzgerald immediately bought some of the wreckage as part of a pre-pack arrangement, but the fact remains that Seymour Pierce has been hanging on by its fingertips for two years and it lost its fight for survival. It would have taken about £3m to save the 130-year-old brokerage firm but a range of City institutions decided against bailing them out. Read the report in the Financial Times here.

In 2011 Seymour Pierce faced the largest fine in AIM market history for failing to provide proper advice about companies as described here: "The fine was the result of two separate incidents, one of which involved AIM-listed Legion Group's share price rising by 80pc on news of a healthy order book, only for it to be placed into administration three weeks later. So serious was the public censure that the £400,000 fine was more than the £250,000 levied against adviser Nabarro Wells for its involvement in the £375m Langbar International fraud, in which the company was found to have none of the assets it declared at its AIM listing."

This followed an earlier fine in 2009 of £154,000 by the Financial Services Authority for failures which allowed an employee to steal £150,000 of clients' money over three years. Full details at the FSA here

There was someone willing to save Seymour Pierce, mentioned in the FT article above: Denis Gorbunenko. However the Financial Services Authority decided the £3m Gorbunenko had already invested with Harris firm was quite enough. The reason for this is that Gorbunenko was the Chairman of Rodovid Bank when it had to be nationalised. You can read about this worrying saga here - suffice to say the bank was a Ponzi scheme, the largest ever in Eastern Europe, and large sums of money are still missing.

When I rang Harris to discuss this he did not return my calls, although his secretary was kind enough to correct my pronunciation of Gorbunenko. She also bridled faster than a Findus lasagne at my suggestion that he does not return my calls (I've rung him previously over CSI to question the due diligence he did before introducing them as prospective owners of PFC back in 2011) and promised he would. Imagine my surprise when he didn't.

So on the day Harris was announcing he was our Fairy Godmother and that we should go to the ball, his company was going under, owing £3m to the mysterious Gorbunenko and £1m to the taxpayer.

Harris was a well-known figure during the takeover of Pompey by CSI, meeting, (according to eye witnesses) many times with Balram Chainrai and Vladimir Antonov. Our sources suggest he got on very well with both. Of course there is nothing wrong with that.

Harris supports Manchester United and was involved in advising the abortive 'Red Knights' takeover attempt and has also been a director of Cardiff City under Peter Ridsdale and brokered the deal to bring Carson Yeung to Birmingham City. BDO, the company merging with PKF, recently resigned as auditors of Birmingham City. The accountancy group said it was "sceptical as to whether we have received all relevant information" from the directors of Birmingham City PLC.

To be fair to Harris he is credited with bringing Abramovich to Chelsea and Randy Lerner to Aston Villa, both of whom have proved to be highly credible owners in their respective ways. However, he also brokered Thaksin Shinawatra's ill-fated takeover of Man City, Eggert Magnusson's takeover of West Ham, which ended in a mountain of debt as the Icelandic banks imploded in 2008. Harris advised a consortium which launched an abortive bid to buy Southampton out of administration in 2009, before the Liebherr family took that club over. Harris's appeals to the Football League on being frozen out of that deal fell on deaf ears.

He also advised Laurence Bassini - linked with Pompey not so long ago - over his takeover at Watford, which ended up a well-chronicled litany of disasters.

Harris is a friend of one-time Pompey chairman Terry Venables and was Football League chairman at the time of the ITV Digital debacle in 2002. After turning down a £50m settlement, the league fought through the courts for the full amount and lost, prompting his and the league's then CEO's resignation. The Moneyweek article here refers to the widely-quoted description of his then Chief Executive David Burns and him as being "incapable of running a kebab shop" over the pair's handling of the situation.

But that's enough of Harris. Coming soon to this blog is Alan Hitchins. And if you are sensing a depressingly familiar Pompey pattern of so-called 'investors' is starting to unfold, you're not wrong...

Micah Hall wishes it to be known that he has received no legal threats and has simply been busy with trying to ensure the fans' takeover of the club is a success. 

The views of Micah Hall are his own and don't necessarily reflect the editorial view of Any proceeds of this column are donated to Action Aid.

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LostBoys added 15:14 - Feb 12
Super stuff again Micah

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