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40   ~tl'I':1l   Busmess
Ahmed AI Faraj and Peter Storrie at the
Portsmouth versus Manchester City game at
the City of Manchester stadium on the 31st
January 2010




        hortly after II am on Sarurday 24th

S       October 2009, Mark Jacob began
        making a series of extraordinary
phone calls. The then executive director of
Portsmouth Football Club, who normally
worked as a property lawyer with London
firm Fuglers, started dialling the mobile
telephone numbers of Britain's national
newspaper editors. Having completed the
calls, he moved on to the major television
and web-based news organisations before
finally starting on the international media.
   When they answered, he began: "There is
a story that has appeared in the Saudi news­
paper Ashraq AI Awsal which claims to be
an interview with the owner of Portsmouth,
Ali Al Faraj. In this so-called 'interview',
Mr AI Faraj says he is not a billionaire, that
he hasn't got a clue about football, and is
only interesting in making some fast cash."
The suave lawyer with a perfect cut-glass
public school accent went on to explain
to editors that the interview was in fact a
fake - it had never happened. As he said:
"You can imagine how damaging such a
ridiculous story would be to our club. This
is a totally fake interview. I am calling just
to warn you not to rcpeat any of the claims
made in that article." He added: "This
intcrview is the work of somc bad people
who will face legal action."
   As Jacob pointed out, Ali Al Faraj was
a highly-respected businessman who had
taken over the club three weeks earlier. He
was a shareholder in the Saudi-based        ~



                        :,)tlJ'\lI~Busmess   41
INVESTIGATION



 global chcmical giant Sabic, not to mention       was former Portsmouth chief executive             performance decline(~ Standard Chartered         Sacha I
 being a renowned property investor across         Peter Storrie, who once described AI Faraj        and Barclays demanded repayment ofthcir          £30 mil
 the Middle East. He had already passed the        as a man who would take the club "to a            £50 million in loans, and, by early 2009,        Fe, thel
Premier League's' fit and proper persons           level you wouldn't believe."                      Gaydamak realised it was time to sell before     ended
test' (FPPT) and becn rubbcr-stamped                  Storrie had certainly been right about         there was a financial catastrophe. But, even
by Premier League chairman, Sir David              that: when the dust had cleared after the AI      then, he had no reason to be worried; English
Richards.                                          Faraj debacle, the club's total debt, admit­      Premiershjp soccer elubs arc worth serious
   There was just one problem for Jacob:           tedly not all run up by the Saudi, stood at       money, and plenty of people wanted to buy.
the interview was not a fake. It had taken         £ I08.6 million. Unsecured creditors were         But the problem was that surprisingly few
place, and it had been reported exactly as         owed £92.7 million.                               actually had the cash to fulfil their dreams.
it had happened. Al Faraj, the third owner            Portsmouth's problems started during the       For every serious prospective buyer of a
of Portsmouth Football Club in 2009, really        era of former owner Sacha Gaydamak, who,          soccer club, there were a hundred lyre­
didn't have very much cash. He was not a           in an attempt for glory from 2006 onwards,        kickers. Gaydamak told his chief execu­
bilLionaire nor, indeed, even a millionaire.       authorised an uncontrolled spending spree         tive, Peter Storrie, to scll it. Storrie asked
He had never been to Britain, had never            on players. It was to prove disastrous,           Sir David Richards to help. But a sale was
watched a football match and didn't know           although hc did achieve glory. Before             complicated; Gaydamak had used various
anything about Portsmouth. Over the next           that, Gaydamak had been a good owner,             investment vehicles to fund his 00 million
four months, he would fail to pay even the         investing nearly £30 million of his family        investment in the club, channclling £2.6
cleaners' salarics at the club. He would           fortune buying and cstablishing the club at       million through Devondale Investments,
mortgage the stadium to raise cash and hire        the top level.                                    £22.6 million through acadia Investments
a convicted fraudstcr to nm the club's financial      The new money was spent on buying              and another n.8 million through a Russian
affairs. By the end of his four-month tenure       success on the pitch under the management         investment bank, Antanta Securities.
- all under the nose of Sir David Richards         of Harry Redknapp. To that extent, it succeeded      But, very quickly, Gaydamak found that
- Al Faraj would take the club into financial      whcn Redknapp lifted the 2008 FA Cup and          no one wanted to buy a club with so much
oblivion, a winding up order an(~ cventually,      established the club as a genuine Premier­        debt. So instead, he decided to try and do
administration. A bigger mess there could          ship team. The increased income from that         business with someone he could trust to            Gay,
not have been.                                     success was meant to pay otf the loan. But        gradually repay the debts over a period of          It\\':
                                                                                                     time. In return, they would effectively gct         sow
Plenty of people wanted to buy. But the problem was                                                  the club for a nominal sum. Gaydamak                the
                                                                                                     essentially dccided to give the club away in        Clu
that surprisingly few actually had the cash to fulfil their                                          exchange for taking the debts otf his hands         Sto'
dreams. For every serious prospective buyer of a soccer club,                                        - a dangerous cocktail indeed.                      Ch~
                                                                                                        At the start of 2(01), Richards contacted        Un­
there were a hundred tyre-kickers.                                                                   Pajroj Piempongsant, a Thai business­
                                                                                                     man who was closc to formcr Thai prime              em
   Today, Portsmouth Football Club is              as soon as Redknapp got a dceent job offer,       minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. Richards              pu
shattered into many ricces. Relegated from         he decamped to Tottenham Hotspur, lcaving         thought Thaksin might be interested and             Me
the Premicrship, it will be lucky to survivc       a financial mess behind him. His successor,       asked Piempongsant ifhe could put him in            gl\
relegation from the lower leaguc. Even thc         Tony Adams, was way out of his depth, and         touch with any prospective buyers. He was           BII
most diehard optimists don't cxrect it to          a decline began, both on the pitch and at the     immediately assured that just the right man          m"l
survive for much longcr, although most fans        bank.                                             was available. That man was Sulaiman Al              in"
will remcmber the club for its incredible FA          Much of the success had been financed          Fahim, a Dubai-based rroperty tycoon. AI             SU
Cup victory in 2008.                               by bank loans. As Adams made his mess,            Fahim was not unknown; he had brokered               ha
   So how did a mysterious Saudi - who             financial problcms quickly emergcd.               the sale of Manchester City Football Club
to this day has nevcr actually been seen              The last sensible accounts were in 2006,       the year before to Abu Dhabi's Shcikh                arl
in public (and there arc some who claim            which showed a pre-tax loss of £1) 12,397. In     Mansour, and, having got a taste of Premier          hi
he doesn't even exist) - with the help of          truth, that was a very respectable perfor­        League soccer, was keen. He was cven                 in
a fraudstcr, manage to buy it in the first         mance for a soccer club. But that's where         keener when he grasped thc fact that thcre           ac
place? And how did Richards and the FA let         the sanity ended. In 2007, Portsmouth             was effectively no purchase price - just a           til
him do it, seemingly unmolested?                   FC lost £23.4 million; in 2008, £ 16.9            promisc to pay at some time in thc future.           ql
   It all came to a conclusion on Wednesday        million; and in 2009, £ 14.47 million.            Al Fahim was arguably Dubai's best-known             th
21 st April this ycar, two months after AI         The losses totalled £55.7 million and it          busi nessman. He was the presenter of the
Faraj had his shares in the club seized by his     was all financed by a giant bank loan from        Middle Eastern equivalent of 'The
crcditors. Thc full extent of the club's finan­    Standard Chartered Hank and l3arclays. At         Apprentice', a TV show that had made                  tl­
cialmess was laid bare in a rerort prepared        the heart of thc problem were salalies paid to    Donald Trump and Alan Sugar famous in                 \~

by administrator Andrew Andronikou.                players. Salarics accounted for [09 per cent      America and Britain.                                  fi
   So who is to blame? Certainly Richards          of income, an equation matched only by               Richards arranged a meeting on 27th
and Mark Jacob, a London-based lawyer              the world's richcst soccer club, Manchester       May in Rome, and Al Fahim met with Storrie            c:
who lent AI Faraj more credibility than he         City.                                             to thrash out a deal. With such an amazing
had any right to be accorded. And then thcre          After Rcdknapp left and the team's             deal on offer, and Al Fahim acceptable to


42      'I:I'ilIJ{Busmess
Irtered     Sacha Gaydamak and his father spent more than
Jftheir     £30 million buying and building up Portsmouth
)09,        Fe, then sowed the seeds of destruction and
11 before   ended up getting just £5 million back
It, even
English
;erious
 to buy.
 y few
,·eams.
ofa
re­
eeu­
sked
ewas
Inous
nillion
2.6
'nts,
ments
~ussian


Id that
much
d do
tto         Gaydamak, a deal was signed. And there
Jd of       it was. The seeds of destruction had been
y get       sown in one simple act, and Al Fahim was
ak          the new owner of Portsmouth Football
way in      Club. To celebrate, Richards, AI Fahim and
hands       Storrie travelled to Moscow to watch the
            Champions league Final between Manchester
acted       United and Barcelona.
;­
               But all was not as it seemed. It later
;me         emerged that AI Fahim had not signed a
ds          purchase contract with Gaydamak but a
md          Mcmorandum of Understanding (MoU),
 imin       giving him 90 days to complete the takeover.
ewas        But, cmciajJy, Gaydamak had handed over
It man      management control. It was an astonish­
bAI         ing deal and, of course, everyone besides
n.AI        Storrie. Richards and Al Fahim believed he
[ered       had bought the club. No one knew the truth.
Club           Portsmouth fans took to their new owner,
h           and the British media also took a shine to
~l1Ier      his extravagant style. But AI Fahim was
11
            in for a shock. He sent in a team of               He continued the charade and fronted       with a property lawyer in London called
there       accountants to put a fine-toothed comb          it out. In late June, as the 90 days ticked   Mark Jacob. The lawyer had some interesting
iSta        through the Portsmouth accounts and             down, Storrie began to get cold feet and      clients, particularly in the Arabian world,
ture.       quickly realised he had taken on a lot more     gradually worked out that Al Fahim did not    who were interested in soccer.
mown        than he had bargained for.                      aChmlly have the money to complete the           By now, AI Fahim was also seeking new
'the           And then there emerged another tmth.         deal.                                         backers. He too had tasted the Premiership
            AI Fahim was not the principal. He was             When Storrie realised Al Fahim was         and liked it. Despite the debts, he wanted
e           the front man for some Dubai investors          unlikely to complete a deal, he panicked      to stay at Portsmouth even if the original
IS In
            who had pledged him up to £50 million for       and contacted the well-connected soccer       backers didn't. It had all the makings of
            full ownership. When the backers saw the        agent Pini Zahavi, an Israeli-born deal       a classic mess, with a conflagration of
 h          accountants' report, and the scale of the       maker. Six years earlier, Zahavi had sold     would-be owners who had just one thing in
~torrie     club's debt began to be made public, they       Chelsea Football Club to Roman Abramovich     common: they all had no money. And, as all
 Zing       immediately ran for the hills, and Al Fahim     and picked up a £5 million commission.        this was happening, the soccer club per­
c to        was left holding the baby.                         Zahavi suggcstcd Storrie make contact      formed worse and worse with Redknapp ..


                                                                                                                                   :l'\ll   'BlI!Smess   43
                   fNVESTIGATION


                                                                                                                Mark Jacob, a solicitor at the respected firm of
                                                                                                                Fuglers, represented Ali AI Faraj. However, in
                                                                                                                the end, even he was forced to admit that he had
                                                                                                                never met his client




                                                                                                                   Storrie had done a magnificent job of
                                                                                                                selling Ali AI Faraj as a potential new owner
                                                                                                                for the club and, in the process, hugely
                                                                                                                enriched his own reputation as a man
                                                                                                                who got things done. Storrie had plenty of
                                                                                                                incentive. It later emerged that his annual
                                                                                                                salary as chief executive was over a million
                                                                                                                pounds a year.
                                                                                                                    Tn mid-August, Storrie finally came
                                                                                                                off the fence and approached Gaydamak
                                                                                                                and suggested AI Fahim be dropped and
                                                                                                                replaced with the consortium he had put
                                                                                                                together.
               gone and Tony Adams in charge.                    Although the negotiations were bizarre,            By now fed up and disillusioned with
                  Storrie began a series of meetings with     there was no suggestion that Jacobs acted         Storrie, Gaydamak reportedly responded
               Jacob and, in order to put pressure on AI      incorrectly. He was simply doing the best         with four words: "Show me the money."
               Fahim, began publicly questioning whether      for his client. Ali Al Faraj also had a brother       But Storrie couldn't show him the money
               Al Fahim would last the course. Storrie was    called Ahmed, who was based in London.            because there wasn't any to show.
               clearly putting together a 'Plan B' just in    Ahmed was effectively the go-to guy for his          On Wednesday 26th August, Storrie asked
               case it was needed.                            brother and, along with Mark Jacob, looked        to meet Gaydamak at 8:30am. AJthough there
                  Portsmouth's press officer, Gary Double,    after Al Faraj's investments.                     was no hard cash to offer, his consortium,
               was the architect of the emerging 'Plan B'.       As the start of the new soccer season          led by Ali AI Faraj, was ready to take over
               Storrie, through Jacob, initiated talks with   approached in August 2009, there was still        the club, manage the debt and invest in its
               a client of his, a Saudi businessman called    no sign of AI Fahim completing his deal.          future. Gaydamak, dctermined to get some­
               Ali Al Faraj.                                  Storrie, meanwhile, upped the stakes and          thing for his club, told Storrie to wait for his
                  Storrie and Double were told that Ali Al    put more pressure on AI Fahim, telling jour­      decision later that afternoon.
               Faraj was a major property investor who        nalists that he could rescue the club thanks          With his 'show-me-the-money' ultimatum,
               also had a huge holding in the Saudi-based     to the super rich consortium he was putting       it turned out that only one man was up to the
               chemical giant Sabic, not to mention a         together. Storrie planted the idea in people's    task an(L that, surprisingly, was AJ Fahim.
               substantial family trust. They were told       heads of a hugely wealthy Saudi called Ali        At 10:30am that day, AI Fahim wired £5
               that he was a keen sports fan and interested   Al Faraj taking over the club. Fans publicly      million from his company, Al Fahim Asia
               in getting his hands on an English soccer      began to demand that AI Fahim step down           Associates, into Gaydamak's bank account
               club. They were told he had millions at his    as chairman. They even started chanting:          and, with it, took 100 per cent control of
               disposal to pursue his dream of success on     "Come on the Faraj Brothers, down with Al         Portsmouth Football Club.
               the pitch.                                     Fahim."                                               Storrie was shattered by the news, having




l.. . . . . __..      n
               4.. _... ...
               . 4 S. ;[_......
                            BUSill_ess_.                                                 ! "!iO ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ~= = = = =;_:_- .....~----:--- ...

     Sulaiman AI Fahim was the Middle East's
I
Id
     answer to Donald Trump and Alan Sugar. He
     fancied himself as the owner of an English
     Premiership soccer club, but hadn't thought
     through the financial implications




     told journalists that Ali AI Faraj could have
     taken the club to "a level you wouldn't
     bclieve." With that sort of talk, no one in the
     media doubted his credentials for a moment.
     and reports soon linked Al Faraj with a
     likely takeover of London soccer club West
     Ham.
        Al Fahim had bought a poisoned
     chalice, and none of the club's intense cash
     problems were solved by his takeover - £5
     million was all he had.
        The following month and the first payday
     loomed under AI Fahim's ownership. Al
     Fahim was shocked that the club didn't have       eent of his sharcholding was transferred          picture and that was aLi they secmcd to care
     the £ 1.8 million required to meet it. Storrie    to AI Faraj's offshore investment vehicle,        aboLlt. Storrie announccd that "the future is
     was not exactly supportive and told The           Falcoodrone, for a nil consideration. Al          safe" and that AI Faraj "will bring financial
     Guardian newspapcr: "There is no money            Faraj promised AJ Fahim he would eventually       stability."
     left", explaining that all thc income from        give him £5 million for his remaining ten            Along with Jacob, AI Faraj would join
     television rights and gate rcceipts had been      per cent.                                         the new Portsmouth board. Jacob told the
     pledged alrcady to makc debt repayments to           On Sunday 5th October, Mark Jacob              media that day: "He's absolutely delighted
     Standard Chartered Bank.                          completed the deal on behalf of hi . client,      and looking forward to working with
        AI Fahjm finally rcaliscd that hc was in       AI Faraj, who became the third owner of the       the team. He is a huge supporter of the
     way over his head and told Storrie he was         club in as many months.                           English Premiership and is delighted to get
     headed for the exits once a ncw buyer could          Astonishingly, AI Fahim agreed to sell         involved."
     be found. Storrie immediatcly phoned Mark         the club for the second time for no money            Meanwhile, Sir David Richards immedi­
     Jacob, and Jacob supposedly phoned AI             up front. Al Fahim said at the time: "I've        ately agreed to rubber-stamp thc Al Faraj
     Faraj. Or at least he phoned someone.             effectively paid £5 million for a ten per         takeover. Richards could find nothing
        His financial director, Holger Heims, met      cent stake. If this AI Faraj guy is as big as I   wrong with Ali Al Faraj and so told the
     immediately with Storrie and Jacob. He            am tol~ then my ten per cent will be worth        club to announce that Al Faraj had already
     told them that Ali Al Faraj was prepared to       more than £5 million very SOOIl- so maybe         passed the FPPT with the full backing of
     take control of the club, to manage the debt      this will turn out to be a good deal."            the Premier League. Richards was only too
     an(~ more importantly, to arrange to pay the         They were all in dreamlan~ the lot of          happy to approve a second owner just 44
     salaries due in a few days. But, crucially, AI    them.                                             days after having declared that AI Fahim
     Faraj would pay nothing to take control.             For Storrie aod for Portsmouth fans,           was a 'fit and proper' owner.
        Fahjm negotiated a deal whcreby 90 per         that didn't matter: Al Fahim was out of the          How Al 'Faraj could have passed the     ..


                                                                                                                                  "J   IIIe 110: BUSll1ess   45
INVESTIGATION

                                                              --~-~-~-'--------~--------.



                                             The supporting cast ofextraordinary characters that )




Andrew Andronikou...the administrator            Sir David Richards...the man in the middle        Daniel Azougy...the mysterious financier

FPPT is a mystery. Until the Portsmouth          include Al Faraj on its annual 'Saudi Rich        Chainrai. Jacob had offered the stadium as
deal, there had never been a single mention      List'.                                            security.
of him anywhere in the media. Not one per­          Then, most strangely of all, it emerged           Chainrai was introduced to the new own­
son or company in Saudi Arabia could even        that Sulaiman AI Fahim, who had sold Al           ers by Yoram Yossifoff, an Israeli lawyer
verify his existence. He was supposedly a        Faraj the club, hadn't met him either. Asked      brought in as an advisor to Ali AI Faraj. Also
keen spol1s f~lIl and investor, but the chair­   by The Guardian newspaper ifhe had met            brought into thc club as a consultant to run
man of the Saudi Professional League, Dr         Ali AI Faraj, AI Fahim said: "I only know         its finances was Daniel Azougy, an ex-Israeli
Hafez Almedlej, admitted: "I've never heard      one of them." When pushed, he admitted            lawyer and convicted fraudster. Azougy had
of him. I've even called up all my friends in    that even that was an exaggeration: "Yeah,        been found guilty in Tel Aviv in 2002 of
Saudi Arabian football and no one knows          though I haven't met him, that's whatl know       obstructing the course ofjustice by showing
him. It is all very strange."                    in the papers." Al Fahim also admitted he         false documents to a judge. Seven years
   Even a cursory search on Google would         had not been personally involved in the           later, in March 2009, he was found guilty
have revealed that his major asset, sup­         negotiations to sell the club: "No, no. It was    by the Tel Aviv District Court of presenting
posedlya substantial stake in Sabic, the         my advisers and my lawyers," he replied. Fi­      false documents to the Israeli Securities As­
chemical company, was a myth. Sabic is           nally, when asked how much he had sold his        sociation regarding the sale of his stakc in a
owned by the Saudi Arabian government. Al        shares for, Al Fahim admitted: "One pound         public company three years earlier.
Faraj didn't own a single share and no one at    would be an exaggeration."                           As October progressed, and with no avail­
the company had evcr heard of him. There            The club, meanwhile, rushed out a state-       able cash flow, Jacob soon realised he had
                                                                                                   another big problem: the October salaries.
                                                                                                   So he went back to Chainrai for more cash,
He asked Jacob a loaded question: Had he actually ever met                                         this time getting nearly £ 1.5 million from
the current owner of the club? "No", came the reply. Chainrai                                      him secured against all the assets in the club
                                                                                                   that weren't pledged to the banks.
was flabbergasted and realised he had a problem.                                                      Meanwhile, British journalists, who knew
                                                                                                   none of this, became suspicious when Ali
were no recorded property deals recorded in      ment trom Ali AI Faraj onto its websitc,          AJ Faraj didn't appear at the club in person.
his name. In reality, he was the archetypal      which dcclared: "Our aim is to put a stable       Mark Jacob politely declined requests for
man of straw Yet he owned 100 per cent of        foundation in place in all aspects of the busi­   interviews, saying AI Faraj would be in the
an English Prcmiership soccer club, with         ness, beginning with the financial restructur­    UK as soon as possible and would happily
the wholehearted approval of Sir David           ing of the club. Once this is in place, we can    meet the media at that time. In the mean­
Richards.                                        assess our approach to building a much­           time, his brother, Ahmed Al Faraj, was han­
   A single, grainy photograph of a man said     needed ncw training ground and redevelop­         dling his affairs. Ahmed AI Faraj, according
to be Al Faraj was issued by the club and        ing Fratton Park."                                to the club, was a property investor based in
credited to the well-known Gctty Images li­        And everyone just assumed that Al Faraj         the UK who also used Jacob as his lawyer.
brary. Through a spokesman, however, Getty       had paid the £ 1.8 million salary bill. But          Jacob, prompted media claims that AI
Images said it had no record of ever owning      he hadn't even done that. As the accounts         Faraj was a mysterious figure, dismissed
such a picture.                                  would later show, Mark Jacob secured a £ 1.8      them as 'mischief-making'. He was quick to
   The respected Middle Eastern busincss         million loan trom a company called Portpin,       explain that he and his client had saved the
weekly Arabian Business celiainly did not        owned by the Nepalese businessman Balram          club from extinction and should be given


46   ~·nl];,"-.:Busmess
rs that helped build and destroy Portsmouth Football Club




              Harry Redknapp...the successful manager           Balram Chainrai...the ultimate saviour            Pini Zahavi...the 'Mr. Fix It' who failed to fix it

1111   as     credit for that - though hc carefully failed      20th October, and by the weekend had been         even this cash had now been withheld by the
              to mention that AI Faraj had in fact simply       widely translated and repOlted in the English     Premier League because of unpaid bills.
!   own­      borrowed money to pay the bills.                  media.                                               But probably the most bizarre twist of
~er               No one knew precisely what was going             Jacob was stunned when he read it and          all in the club's saga came in the first weck
~i·Also       on and, unknown to Jacob, their carefully­        immediately assumed it was fabricated.            ofFebruary this year. Fed up by the many
omn           crafted image of everyone working for a           Furious, he made his now famous calls and         promises of cash on the way, Chainrai finally
:·lsraeli     Saudi tycoon with deep pockets was about          threats to various media organisations. The       lost patience and called Jacob, once again to
gy had        to be shattered.                                  club went fi.lrther, stating on its website       demand a meeting with Al Faraj.
 of               In mid-Octobcr, ajournaJist t1'om the         that the quotes were "completely false and           When he refused, Chainrai asked Jacob
lowing        highly-respected Saudi newspaper Ashraq           untrue. The club believes this is the work of     a loaded question: whethcr he had actu­
Irs           Al Awsal travelled to Portsmouth, where he        a third party who will face legal action."        ally ever met his infamous Saudi tycoon
lilty         met Ahmed AI Faraj. Ahmed AI Faraj had               Hours later, the Saudi newspaper declared      and current owner of the club? "No", came
'nting        never before spoken to a journalist and was       it had a tape of the interview. The statement     the reply. Chaimai was flabbergasted and
e   AS -
.e 111 a
              utterly charmed and flattered by the atten­
              tion. The two men went for a dlive around
                                                                claiming the quotes were fake was hastily
                                                                removed from the club website, and Jacob
                                                                                                                  realised he had a problem.
                                                                                                                     On 4th February 20 I0, Chaimai in­
              Porl~mouth, during which time Ahmed Al            began a round of humiliating phone calls to       structed his legal team to seize control of
I avail­      Faraj was asked if he could put the joumalist     the media, admitting the interview was in         Ali Al Faraj's Portsmouth shareholding over
 had          through to his brother, Ali AI Faraj. Ahmed       fact true. "There's just been a lot of confu­     non-payment of his loans. The mysterious
ties.         immediately agrecd and dialled a mobilc           sion, it's just one of those days. Let's not      Saudi's 119 days as owner of a Premier
cash,         number in Riyadh and put the speaker              read too much into this silly incident," he       League club were brought to an end.
'0111         phonc on in his car. On the other end, for the    told one reporter.                                   Jacob and all Al Faraj's advisors were
    e club    first time ev,er, was the voice of the man who       Things at the club quickly became worse,       soon booted off the dub's board before it
              was the presumed new owner of the club,           as the Inland Revenue filed a winding up          was immediately put into administration by
    knew      AIiAI Faraj.                                      order of over £3 million in unpaid taxes. The     Chainrai to recover his loans.
    A.li          The Portsmouth owner seemed utterly           salaries for both November and December              Nothing has been heard of Ali Al Faraj
    rson.     confused. Over the next ten minutes, he           were late, officially, due to "banking errors."   since. But, then again, nothing had ever
    for       explained that he didn't actually have any           Jacob and the new club board carried on        been heard of bim before.                     •
    ~ the     real cash, and that he knew absolutely noth­      going back to Chainrai for more loans, and
    lily      ing about soccer or, indeed, any sport. He        offered anything they could get their hands
    tn­       said the takeover of the club was entirely a      on as security: the shares, the stadium and
     haIl­    business dccision because he had been told        even the club's future television income.
    rding     by his advisors it could make him a quick            By early 20 I0, Chainrai himself started to
    ;ed in    profit. He told the journalist: "Our plan is to   become worried and demanded a meeting
    ~'er.     stay for a period of less than six months, un­    with Ali Al Faraj. He was told by Mark Ja­
      I       til the club stands again. This is based on the   cob that the meeting would take place even­
    fd        fact that purchasing thc club was purely an       tually, but not just yet. Chainrai had been
     'ck to   investment. It's not a secret to hide: we m'e     assured that he would get at least £7 million
      the     investors and we have no relation to sports."     from the Premier League in early 20 I0 for        The only known photograph of Ali AI Faraj.
    en            The interview was published on Tuesday        its share of television revenues - only to find   But is it really him? And, if not, who is it?


                                                                                                                                               ~11:1\I   lo/.Busmess    47

				
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