Daniel Kretinsky would be “open to” buying the London Stadium as West Ham owner according to those close to him, The Times reports.
The former Olympic Stadium, which the Hammers currently pay £3.6million-a-year to lease, is being run at a loss by the LLDC on behalf of the taxpayer, and chief executive Lyn Garner has said it will continue to do so “whether we like it or not” even with a naming rights deal.
The £200million figure in the LLDC accounts provided to cover future loses has been “challenged” according to The Times, and that number may yet rise “significantly”.
Martyn Ziegler writes that it is therefore possible that pressure will now increase to open talks with West Ham over selling the stadium to the club outright.
Czech billionaire Kretinsky currently owns 27% of the Hammers’ shares, and there is an ongoing legal dispute over what is owed to the LLDC as a result of those purchases, but he “may” complete a full takeover, although a report from the Guardian on 8 March suggested that clarity on a situation considered “messy” would be some way off.
And with the Irons fighting to stay in the Premier League, if the club were to be relegated his appetite for a buy-out is thought to be unlikely.
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The so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ that sees the club pay minimal rent while the taxpayer picks up the tab for running costs up to and including goalposts and corner flags is know as that for a reason.
Few Hammers fans would dispute that the club is metaphorically robbing the LLDC blind with that arrangement, and it is staggering that it secured in the first place, even if there were few outside of the West Ham boardroom who were actually interested in leaving Upton Park.
So in some ways it is not really in the club’s interest to stump up a huge fee to buy the Stratford stadium and David Sullivan has clearly shown no inclination to do so, even if it would make logical sense from most perspectives outside the club.
Kretinsky is a different matter but his own takeover, thought to be the next step as soon as the 10-year penalty clause in the agreement with the LLDC lapsed, is now less certain.
Sullivan, and the family of the late David Gold are no longer obliged to pay the corporation if they sell the club after the stipulation ended this month, but amid a complicated shareholding situation, a relegation battle on the pitch, and doubts over a willingness to sell to Kratinsky a buy-out seems some way off at this stage.
That surely kicks any purchase of the London Stadium a long distance down the road, so the uncomfortable status quo seems set to continue for the foreseeable future.