Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Madejski embraces Russki 'dream'

The announcement that Reading FC owner Sir John Madejski has agreed to sell a controlling stake in the club has been met with mixed feelings. Reading Post polls 2:1 of readers in favour.

The deal, which is 'subject to due diligence and league approval', will see Thames Sports Investment Ltd recieve 51% of shares in exchange for an estimated £40m upon completion at the end of March.

At the official press conference he declared "This fit is so good it is not funny" - it is 'a dream' for all sides (update: official club sources put the price paid by TSI at £25m. The club website summarises the key points from the press conference here).

BBC Berkshire's Tim Dellor comments that this is 'uncharted territory', but although many unknowns remain there are grounds for cautious optimism. Mr Madejski will remain Chairman until at least 2014 whereupon he will become life president, in a role which recognises to his development of the club in the past 22 years and ensures a smooth transition.

Boris Zingorevich
Football finance expert Chris Brady reveals TSI is an investment vehicle fronted by Anton Zingarevich on behalf of his billionaire father Boris - who 'has been sniffing around' English football for a while and recently denied making a tentative bid for another club.

Anton with Katia
However 29-year-old Anton Zingarevich has a particular connection to Reading, having studied Sports Management at Sindlesham's Bearwood College between graduating from Reading University and a move into Venture Capital and Private Equity in America.

Mr Zingarevich will be represented by TSI executive Chris Samuelson on the club board. He explained money would be available for improving the squad, "but the club will always be prudent," before reasserting, "Everything we do must be prudent, if it's not prudent then we won't do it."

Possibly a prudent move itself, given 'visa-related' problems kept Mr Zingarevich away from the press conference!

Ben@the.offside publishes the first photo of Reading's new majority owner. He is excited by the move, stating "ultimately, the club will continue as it has, just with a bit more money."

Users of independent club forum Hob Nob Anyone? speculate vigorously on the future. As do those on Royals Rendezvous.

'Limited' funds have been made available during the current transfer window, with reports that a bid for Doncaster sharpshooter Billy Sharp may be in the offing alongside two other rumoured arrivals and Jimmy Kebe's signature on a new contract to appease hungry fans. However other prospects are also going in the opposite direction with Dutch outfit FC Utrecht offering a trial to Jacob Walcott (cousin of England's Theo) and Division 1 promotion-chasers Huddersfield Town re-loaning 21-year-old defender Sean Morrison.

Continuity is a theme, with all sides noting the admiration they hold for John Madejski and a desire to maintain the ethos of responsibility he instilled at the club.

urzz1871 expresses concern among faithful of The Tilehurst End that running a Category One Academy whilst changing from being a 'selling club' may not be a financially sustainable model. He argues for more transparency regarding finances and highlights as-yet unanswered questions from fans' open letter on ownership.

Stephen Dempsey gives his summary: given the jobs of backroom stalwarts like Nicky Hammond are secure the takeover should be viewed "as more of a steady evolution than a Russian revolution." 

He adds, "I don't think we should be expecting, or even wanting, massive amounts of money poured into the first team squad."

In a BBC interview (video), Sir John describes the potential excitement this 'partnership' offers for pushing the club to the next level as a 'win-win situation' which also allows him to slip gracefully into retirement.

Elsewhere Peter Edwards in City AM suggests the name may be more familiar on Merseyside after an attempt to use Brunei-based Fortress Sports Fund as a vehicle for similar investment in Everton. Mr Zingorevich was hailed at the time for his 'encyclopaedic football knowledge' by Toffees chairman Bill Kenwright, but others will note the link between the family's Ilim Pulp company and Dmitry Medvedev, the one-term Russian President.

Anton Zingarevich earlier provided evidence of his outlook when responding to He explained that "The new generation [of Russians] has more freedom... We also have more opportunities; the trick is using them."

RT provides further insight, describing Mr Zingorevich jr. as a supporter of current Russian champion Zenit St Petersburg and quoting his wish to turn Reading into "a profound outfit".

Reading fans may also be interested in connecting with their prospective new owner via his LinkedIn profile, or by inspecting his friend Egor Lavrov's flickr photostream

Meanwhile pictures of Reading's new owner's glamorous lifestyle emerged when he was recently spotted with wife Katia celebrating a 'Russian Christmas' at Dubai's exclusive Burj-al-Arab hotel (see pic above).

More sports stories from the local blogosphere

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