The West Ham buyout: Kommersant partners, Kia Joorabchian, Badri Patarkatsishvili, and Boris Berezovsky
So it's finally come to this. A wanted criminal, Boris Berezovsky, protected under British law from extradition to Russia where he is wanted for crimes that range from tax evasion to suspected murder, and plotting Russian president Valdimir Putin's overthrow, might be planning to buyout West Ham United with his business cronies from the Kommersant deal. Kommersant is part of a media empire that Boris Berezovsky ran, during the early days of de-regulating press in Russia. Of course, the usual denials have been put in motion.
Berezovsky is becoming a thorn in Britain's relations with Russia, as even Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary had to come out publicly and denounce Berezovsky's statement “I am aware of the comments made by Mr. Boris Berezovsky in an interview on January 24,” Straw said. “Advocating the violent overthrow of a sovereign state is unacceptable, and I condemn these comments unreservedly.” Straw also warned Berezovsky that the UK government could review his political refugee status.
Boris Berezovsky's partner, Badri Patarkastasishvili, a prominent Georgian businessman, has been touted as the man behind the West Ham negotiations. Patarkastasishvili and Joorabchian acquired Kommersant from Berezovsky in 1999, a move seen as a ploy to divert the Russian's government attention from Berezovsky's assets. Patarkatsishvili is a wanted man in Russia, and is suspected of organizing an escape attempt of another of Berezovsky’s companion, former first vice president of Aeroflot airlines Nikolai Glushkov, from custody in 2001.
Kia Joorabchian, the man behind the takeover of the Hammers, and the CEO of Media Sports Investment (MSI), denies that Berezovsky and Patarkatsishivili are behind this takeover, saying that his investors in the West Ham buyout are from the Middle East and bigger than Roman Abramovich.
Joorabchian has refused to reveal who his backers are in bidding for West Ham, an East London club with a large and loyal fan base. He insists that neither Berezovsky nor Patarkatsishvili -- who, as owner of Georgian club Dynamo Tbilisi is barred under FIFA rules from owning another club -- are behind his bid. Joorbachian is widely known as the owner of the Corinthians, the Brazilian club that Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano were bought from to play for West Ham. However it is well known that the men behind the Corinthian buyout are none other than Berezovsky and Patarkastasishvili. In an article published in Britain's Telegraph newspaper on Thursday, Patarkatsishvili is revealed as the end beneficiary of MSI Holdings, which owns MSI Brazil, and has 100 percent rights on Tevez and 50 percent of Mascherano. The other half is held by Globo, a Brazilian television company.
Joorabchian is perceived as nothing more than a front, a shell, to make deals more palatable for Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili. In fact, Kommersant is still believed to be in the hands of Berezovsky. Raf Shakirov, who was the chief editor of Kommersant when Joorabchian was introduced as the paper's owner in July 1999, said he had no doubt then that the Iranian was "an intermediary."
"He behaved like a person acting on others' behalf, for those who prefer to steer from behind the scenes," Shakirov said Tuesday. "It was clear from the first that Berezovsky was behind it."
Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili were spotted in the crowd during Sunday's game in London between Brazil and Argentina, next to another business partner of Berezovsky's -- Neil Bush, the brother of U.S. President George W. Bush.
They were obviously checking out their new investments, Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano in action, who are under contract to MSI.
The Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano signings were brokered by the Israeli football agent Pini Zahavi, a friend of Kia Joorabchian. He is the mother of all agents, who introduced Roman Abramovich and Alexander Gaydamak to Chelsea and Portsmouth. Zahavi is the future of football, a future that has no place for club, coach, or player. Are you a financially strapped club, with little to no chance of ever winning a title? Contact Pini Zahavi, and he will get in touch with investors willing to buy out your club. Do you want a coach? Or players on rent, who can get you a title? Get in touch with Zahavi.
As The Times, a pro-business paper, cautions, " The question, then, is not whether more speculators will arrive on these shores but what type. Will they be Glazers, seeking to count the pounds and pence, or Abramovichs? Will they be sons of suspected arms dealers, like Gaydamak, or the offspring of Kent car dealers like Joorabchian? We do not know yet what Randy Lerner has in mind for Aston Villa, but whatever the motives of the new owners, there is nothing apart from a criminal record that can stop them coming in. "
If it is revealed that Kia Joorabchian is a front for Boris Brezovsky and Badri Patarkatsishvili and that West Ham is being bought by funds that are laundered, then the FA, the club authorities, and the fans should deny this takeover, even if it means that Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano may not be part of the Hammers. Hopefully, words like honourable still count for something in the commodified world of football.