Battle for control of Hammers hots up

THE BATTLE for control of West Ham United has become a four-way fight this week after an Italian consortium headed by Cagliari president Massimo Cellino confirmed their interest, writes DAVE EVANS. There has been plenty of speculation about the other part

THE BATTLE for control of West Ham United has become a four-way fight this week after an Italian consortium headed by Cagliari president Massimo Cellino confirmed their interest, writes DAVE EVANS.

There has been plenty of speculation about the other parties vying to take over the club, but this latest proposed bid comes completely out of the blue.

Cellino was at the QPR v Sheffield United FA Cup tie on Tuesday night as a guest of their joint owner Flavio Briatore, but it seems his main reason for being in the capital was to talk with Rothschild Bank - appointed to oversee potential investors in West Ham - to discuss a possible takeover of the Hammers.

The 54-year-old Italian, who made his fortune from farming and property, is a friend of West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola who he brought back to Sardinia to finish his career at Cagliari in 2003.

Despite living most of the time in Miami, Florida, he attends all Cagliari's Serie A games, and is also vice-president of the Italian League where he has become acquainted with Hammers' technical director Gianluca Nani.

It would seem a dream partnership for the current regime at Upton Park, while another potential bidder is also great news for CB Holding, the current owners of the club.

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The possibility of a bidding war would certainly push the price up towards their �100 million valuation, but for the benefit of the football club, Zola will want a new owner to come in soon to give him the opportunity to add to his squad in the January transfer window.

Meanwhile, Intermarket have pledged to continue their battle to take control of West Ham, despite the death of their American chief executive Jim Bowe.The London-based consortium were rocked by the news of Bowe's death over the weekend, but company secretary David Byrne insists that it will not affect their bid."Jim Bowe's death is a terrible blow, but he would have wanted us to carry on and give it our all," said Byrne.

"We had many plans for the future and West Ham was the first of them."I believe we're offering the best package as well as guaranteed funds for this transfer window. We are the only party prepared to sign a 10-year commitment."Rothschild Bank, convened a meeting this week between the interested parties and the five banks - Glitnir, Standard, Lloyds-TSB, RBS and Straumur - who are all owed money by West Ham

The banks have the power to veto any possible takeover, and they grilled Intermarket, David Gold and David Sullivan, as well as Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes over their respective plans to take over the club.

The powers-that-be at Upton Park are said to greatly favour the bid from West Ham supporter Fernandes, who has apparently pledged to keep the manager and the executive staff in place if he were to take control.

But it is the banks, and in particular Straumur, who will have the most say on who - if anybody - is successful, and that is likely to mean what is best for their own business, rather than for West Ham.

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