Long term repercussions: Thaksin's takeover of Man City
Thaksin Shinawatra's takeover of Man City now increasingly looking possible is a relationship fraught with danger. A comparison to Roman Abramovich would be in order because of the association that they have had with their native countries. Abramovich became one of the fortunate few, the oligarchs, given assets worth millions of dollars at throwaway prizes by Boris Yeltisn and Anatoly Chubais when the Soviet Union broke up. He immediately came under suspicion when Vladimir Putin became the premier of Russia. Putin went after the oligarchs, freezing their assets, especially that of Abramovich's one time partner, Boris Berezovsky, who fled to England and is now living in exile. However, the same fate did not befall Abramovich because he took steps to mitigate his circumstances by selling his shares in his company Sibneft, becoming the governor of Chukotka province, and under writing the Russian national soccer team and paying Guus Hiddink his wages. By taking these measures he managed to inveigle himself into Putin's good books and flies back and forth from Russia to England, to live in his homes, tend to Chelsea and his businesses without the danger of being detained. The reason why Chelsea can focus on soccer is because at this point Abramovich practically faces no economic and political repercussions. He freely controls the flow of money into his club which comes from his vast business empire that owns oil and natural gas assets. There is no danger of his assets being frozen any time soon or him being imprisoned like Mikhail Khodorovsky, the Yukos tycoon, for tax evasion.
Shinawatra's circumstances are different. He is presently in exile in England having fled Thailand after a coup orchestrated by the military. He faces charges of human rights abuses, graft, tax evasion, and money laundering. Last week, the military junta backed government froze almost 900 million pounds of his assets. Not coincidentally that day of the week Shinawatra decided to launch his 81 million pound bid for Man City. Obviously it was a government decision to embarrass Shinawatra as his advisers scrambled to reassure the Man City board that he still had the funds.
Yesterday, the government formally filed their first charge against Shinawatra, accusing him of 'official misconduct' involving his wife purchasing a piece of prime property in Bangkok, violating anti-graft laws. He has been asked to return to Thailand to face charges but he has been threatened with his life if he does so. He has been the target of a suspected assassination attempt already. If he does not show up, then the lawyers prosecuting the case have threatened imprisonment and if need be, extradition.
Shinawatra has enough money to buy out Man City even with a huge chunk of his assets frozen
and his advisors and the Man City governing board are confident that he can honour his 81.6 million pound bid. However, the bid money by itself may not be the problem. It is the crucial long term investment in the club, its players, and its infrastructure. Eastlands is a recently converted stadium whose 35 million pounds conversion cost was borne by the club so they have escaped paying off on a new stadium unlike Arsenal with the 400 million pound Emirates. However, attracting big name players that can lift long suffering Man City out of the doldrums will cost upwards of 40million pounds. This is a huge increase from a club that typically averages about 5-10 million pounds in player transfers. Even a watered down Abramovich version will cost City about 100-150 million pounds in transfer money for a complete change in complement of players. For that you have to have an owner who is alive, not behind bars, and is financially solvent. A Thai government inimical to Shinawatra has shown that it will not rest in bringing him to his financial knees. Shinawatra could be potentially crippled with a long list of charges because his business holdings and his family are still in Thailand making him an inviting and very vulnerable target.