West Ham Rejects Offer From AirAsia CEO Fernandes to Buy Soccer Club Stake

The owners of West Ham United Football Club PLC rejected an offer by Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes to invest in the English soccer club after it was demoted from the country’s Premier League last month.

Fernandes, a West Ham fan and chief executive officer of AirAsia Bhd. (AIRA), announced the interest via his official Twitter site. Club owners David Sullivan and David Gold have said dropping out of the elite 20-team division will cost 40 million pounds ($65 million) and players will be sold. AirAsia is Southeast Asia’s biggest budget airline.

“He has announced this on Twitter and people can draw their own conclusions as to the seriousness of it from that,” Sullivan said in a statement on the club’s website. “We are not looking to sell the club, but, as we have always said, we would love co-investors to join us in rebuilding West Ham United.”

Sullivan confirmed that they also received an e-mail from Fernandes, who lost out in the race to buy a controlling stake in the club in January 2010 after its previous owner went bankrupt. His offer was “immediately rejected,” they said.

“For all you West Ham fans an offer has gone to the present owners of West Ham,” Fernandes wrote on Twitter yesterday. “Now we have to respect the process. Let’s see if they accept.”

Fernandes, who is also manager of Formula One’s Team Lotus, declined to comment in an SMS to Bloomberg today.

Straumur-Burdaras Investment Bank hf., nationalized by the Icelandic government in March 2009 after the country’s banking sector collapsed, took control of West Ham through its CB subsidiary when the club’s former owner, Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, declared bankruptcy amid the credit crunch.

Sullivan and Gold’s purchase of a 50 percent stake in the Hammers, as the club is known, in January valued it at 105 million pounds, they said at the time. Sullivan put the club’s debt at 110 million pounds when he and Gold took control.

The pair have since increased their combined stake to 60 percent and have a three-year option to buy the remaining stake still held by CB.

To contact the reporter on this story: Barry Porter at bporter10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Collins in Hong Kong at collinsc@bloomberg.net

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