From one Ice age into another one!

WHEN THE Icelandic consortium of Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson and Eggert Magnusson took over the helm at Upton Park in November 2006 they were greeted with open arms, writes DAVE EVANS. Most fans at the time were simply relieved that the Scandinavians had seen

WHEN THE Icelandic consortium of Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson and Eggert Magnusson took over the helm at Upton Park in November 2006 they were greeted with open arms, writes DAVE EVANS.

Most fans at the time were simply relieved that the Scandinavians had seen off the bid of controversial Iranian businessman Kia Joorabchian.

But now, nearly three years on, with Gudmundsson finally shown the exit door this week, was the first Ice Age at Upton Park a qualified success or a financial disaster?

Looking at their transfer record, it would perhaps seem to be the former. There were certainly some disastrous buys at over-inflated prices, with Luis Boa Morte, Julien Faubert and Savio springing immediately to mind.


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But the arrival of the likes of Scott Parker, Matty Upson and initially Craig Bellamy certainly improved the team and made the Hammers a creditable Premier League force.

The biggest problem was the wages that West Ham offered, and for that, much of the liability was down to Eggert Magnusson.

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The likeable, smiling chairman certainly upped the Hammers profile, but when players like Freddie Ljungberg were reportedly earning �75,000 a week, including �20,000 in image rights, then something was clearly not quite right.

When Magnusson was removed, the steadier control of Gudmundsson took over, and when you look at the final transfer tally, West Ham almost broke even, helped by the �14million they gleaned from Manchester City back in January for Bellamy.

Gudmundsson's failings though came back in Iceland, where it became apparent that his enormous fortune was built on shifting sand and one of the consequences of that was that this week, West Ham United - one of his few remaining assets - was confiscated like a repossesed house.

The outgoing chairman said on Monday: "As my fortunes have changed I now have to withdraw from the board of directors. I do that with great regret, but I am convinced that this change of ownership and control will advance the club in the present circumstances.

"I will remain forever a West Ham fan and hope I will have many happy returns to Upton Park."

Gudmundsson was the exact opposite of Magnusson during his time at the club. Careful and publicity shy, he did however seem to have the best interests of the club at heart, and it was only the credit crunch that has brought Iceland to its knees which proved his downfall.

He expressed confidence in the new regime, but fresh doubts have arisen over the credibility of CB Holdings and their parent company Straumur.

It seems that West Ham have gone from one Ice Age to another and on the surface, this one looks no better off than the first.

Straumur have been seriously affected by the economic downturn and are in the process of turning from an investment bank into an asset management company, but that is still to be ratified by their creditors.

They are looking for a six-month extension to an authorised period of delay, during which they can pursue a restructuring of their financial position.

That has to be in place by tomorrow (Thursday), while on August 6, Straumur will have to reach a proper agreement with their creditors, or their assets - including West Ham United - will be stripped and the company liquidated.

That seems to fly in the face of the upbeat statements being made by CB Holdings head and West Ham's new non-executive chairman, Andrew Bernhardt, this week.

"I can assure fans we will sanction investment in new players, but all within the parameters of sensible budgeting based on on revenues generated by West Ham," he stated.

"It will be my job to help facilitate this continued progress on the pitch, while ensuring the club's success is built on a strong financial footing."

That would be more convincing if Straumur had their own house in order, though West Ham chief executive Scott Duxbury, who will keep his job in the restructure, was unsurprisingly upbeat.

"I am delighted to say that West Ham United has been sold in an agreement that will secure the long-term future of this football club," he said.

"Change is always unsettling, but I believe the new owners led by Andrew Bernhardt will bring stability to West Ham and I hope all our staff and fans will join me in welcoming them."

The long-term aim of CB Holdings is to sell the club, but in the current climate that may not be for as long as three years.

In the meantime, if Straumur and its subsidiaries remain in existence, their job will be to keep a firm hand on the tiller and a tight grip on the finances.

That means selling before buying and that the days under Magnusson of champagne and roses will not return under Straumur.

So were the Icelandic consortium a success? They certainly brought a breath of fresh air to Upton Park and though they made mistakes - principally with players' wages - they were also in charge for the modernisation of the football club.

What state would West Ham have been in if Joorabchian had been successful in his takeover plans?

It doesn't bear thinking about, but remember, while Gudmundsson is gone, Joorabchian remains at West Ham as a consultant!

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