Laurence Bassini: When Larry met Danny
When last we met Bassini, the twice-bankrupt ex-Watford owner had missed his own 30th June deadline to finalise his Blues bid. The Daily Mirror newspaper’s James Nursery reported that, with apologies for the impenetrable financial jargon, he’d “failed to cough up.” And Blues’ owners were “ready to re-open talks” with the only other publicly-known interested party, local “fan and businessman Paul Richardson. Circus over, then.
Showing a Boris Johnson-esque reluctance to leave the stage, Bassini returned to the limelight, via his usual source, on 8th July. “Talksport Breakfact is live on edge! Lawrence Bassini has ‘massive news,’” read the caption below intrepid, trepidation-filled trio Jim White, Simon Jordan and, replacing Danny Mills in the balding-but-bearded-finance-inexpert-ex-player-called-Danny role, Danny Murphy. And, unless Bassini was about to announce that he was a woman inside a man’s body, he was clearly going to talk about his Blues takeover.
Yet he clearly had other ‘things’ to say. And White’s clear fear when asking early on, “where are you taking us, Laurence?” was justified. Bassini took five minutes and three seconds on-air to declare: “I am buying the club.” And the beauty of radio on YouTube was perfectly demonstrated by Murphy’s reaction after Bassini’s interview finished. Deadpan as ****, straight to camera, echoing the thoughts of a nation: “I can’t get that 15 minutes back, can I?”
“Laurence Bassini, millionaire businessman, we’re told,” was White’s perhaps unhelpful intro. “Tell us your news.” He was “going to in a second. But first he wanted “to say a couple of things,” about “a lot of things that have been said” by people who “say a lot of things about me.” Because he wanted “to say this guys. I never mocked you. I’ve never said things that are disrespectful…no, let me finish, because I’m going to say what I’m about to say. This is all going to come out now.
“I’ve just been on the phone to David Sullivan and we’ve had a long conversation. I’m now going to disclose some things…oh, by the way, Simon, Tyson Fury said that if I come out with less or you’ve got less information that when he goes in when you’re talking to him, he said he’s happy to train me and he said me & you can have a boxing match and we can have a million quid on it and it will go to charity.”
Then… “There was a delay because Keith Harris had arranged that we were going to have 10 or 12 million against the stadium. Keith Harris failed to do what he said he was going to do. He also said which I’m going to say…because I’m about to disclose everything. He said that Simon, and I want to say this, was responsible for the death of somebody at the EFL that worked with him…”
Harris would not have appreciated that disclosure, out loud on national radio. And Talksport’s lawyers didn’t either, as the station’s logo covered eight seconds of silence, the sound and pictures returning with White’s look screaming “I hope that gets cut.” White, now treating Bassini like a five-year-old, asked slowly if he was “going to take over Birmingham City?” And after more Bassini fluffle, an angrier White begged: “Tell us where you’re at with your takeover bid!”
But the incoherence continued: “I have today which will now be disclosed because it has to come out and it’s been kept very quiet. After what happened to me and everything that’s gone on, I got involved with David. I’m now going to tell you something. I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m meeting the FA next week. I’m so sick of people saying so much rubbish and I’ve kept my mouth shut and I’ve said nothing up until now. I’m now going to disclose to you…you can all check it out yourselves, I want you to, there’s been plenty to say about me.”
White and Jordan were nearing their tether’s ends, while Murphy was increasingly off-screen, likely laughing. “You’ve been on about three minutes and you’ve told us nothing,” White agonised. “Come on, Laurence, pleeease,” Jordan pleaded. And after promising “to disclose something…to the world” and admitting that Sullivan was “in the background to protect me” like Bassini was some idiot son in a mafia drama, he revealed…erm…
“It’s now, which will be registered, you can check it. Zero tax liability. Zero credit cards. Zero bank statements. Investments. Quoted. 235m in the UK. Statement assets personal to Laurence Bassini. Property 5m. That doesn’t include all the shops in Oxford Street I own.” “Fantastic, Laurence,” Jordan interjected, possibly insincerely. Alas, Bassini didn’t reveal what was being registered, or with whom. Zero surprise, then, that the Football League (EFL) said it was “not currently in receipt of documentation from any individual regarding acquisition of control at Birmingham City.”
The headlines, though, were made by the Jordan/Bassini exchanges: Bassini (LB): “You all mock me.” Jordan (SJ): “You do it to yourself. Are you buying the bloody club or not?” LB “I am buying the club. And let me tell you two something. You guys make fun of me…” SJ: Because it’s easy to do. You deserve it.” LB: “You slagged me off with Watford.” SJ: “Because you were a buffoon at times.” LB “You’re a failed owner of a Crystal Palace (sic).” SJ: “But I’m not a buffoon.”
White had to remind Bassini that “the most important people listening to you” were Blues’ fans (“and they must be very impressed” – Jordan). “Laurence,” White sighed, “Birmingham City fans are asking me to ask you, when are you taking over the club?” And, FINALLY, seven minutes into the interview, we got his ‘massive news.’ Sort of.
“Today, I said £30m to the lawyer, who has spoken to the directors and the owners. I’m also going to put in, whether bank loans or assets, another 70-to-80-100m. Because I’m now going to stay in football and I’m going to win the league. I’m going to meet…you know where you have the fans forum and everything, I want them to come to the board meeting and when there’s a meeting with the press, I want them to come there, so they can see for themselves. I’m going to pay 35-40m and I’m going to clear the debts…well, some of it’s being written off because obviously the Hong Kong Stock Market.” Obviously.
With that ‘clarified,’ White wondered was it “fair to ask” why Bassini missed his own deadline. Bassini blamed Harris “a dishonest man and he can sue me if he likes,” who “was supposed to bring 10 or 12 million. And, Bassini left unexplained, “we lost £25m.” So, he told Harris: “You’re not going to do it and Simon thinks the same.” Which was when Harris said Jordan was responsible for a death at the EFL. Jordan noted: “I did tell you (Harris) was a waste of time.” Bassini whinged that “you use the microphone to say things about me.” And Jordan offered to “say it to your face.” Kids, eh?
White, “trying to keep the train on the tracks,” interjected: “You’ve bid 35-40m for the club. You can confirm that. You’ll clear the debt. You can confirm that. So when do we expect to see you installed as the new owner?” Bassini said: “Probably, in the next week or two. There’s a delay because obviously I’ve got to change chairman and I’ve decided I’m not going to stay in football for three years, I’m going to stay as long as it takes and I’m going prove a point.” And that, White concluded, “presumably is the massive news you promised us. We’ll watch for that next week.”
Jordan offered mitigation and contrition for riling Bassini. He only made observations on Laurence, he explained, “when he comes on and talks absolute drivel. And it’s very difficult for me because I don’t have a drivel filter.” And he advised Bassini to “for the love of God, man, just do it. Stop coming on here, telling people that they’re crooks and they’re corrupt.” Although Talksport bosses might not have loved Jordan asking such a box office caller to stop calling.
At one stage, White advised Bassini to “stick to the script.” And Bassini would clearly have benefitted from a couple of minutes’ scripted coherence, if he had supplied the proof of funding he appeared to be confirming with his claims of quarter-billion-pound investments (“quoted”), zero all-sorts and an Oxford Street-based property portfolio. So, when news broke of Bassini You-Tubing a 105-second video to Birmingham fans last Saturday, hopes of that scripted coherence rose.
Filmed at night while driving, with a camera all-but stuck up his nose, Bassini simply re-ranted. “All that rubbish with Watford” would “be released on a website very shortly with all the evidence and corruption.” He was “really, really, very, very serious” about the takeover. Jordan was an idiot “that wants to make people have a low steam (sic).” It was “a personal trip” because “they’ve absolutely, all of them, aggravated with all their lies and all their nonsense.” And he had “a game plan” to “sort the stadium out, sort the training ground out” and, yes, “win the league.” To paraphrase Murphy, I can’t get THAT 105 seconds back, can I?.
Bassini the quarter-billionaire London property magnate seems ‘unlikely.’ He told the High Court in March 2014 that, after his 2007 bankruptcy, he “was purchasing property” for the family. Then his brother offered to “help him fund a venture,” providing “£500,000 with an option for another £1m” towards his Watford bid. And he referenced “a family trust and if I need money, I go and ask.”
This looks a likelier source of claimed quarter-billions that his own companies. These were either incorporated since February (including the intriguing “Bassini’s Soup Kitchen for the Homeless and Vulnerable Limited”), or incorporated in 2020, just before his Charlton Athletic takeover bid. Co-incidentally.
So, Bassini may leave running Blues to family trust appointees. But even then you would question the fitness and propriety of anyone knowing Bassini and thinking, “Yes, I’d like to work for him.” And Bassini’s brother recommended Angelo Barrea as Bassini’s lawyer at Watford. Which did not go well.
In his Car Pool Karaoke pitch, Bassini, correctly, claimed that Blues were “in disarray.” But so is he. His removed relationship with reality this weekend occasionally seemed beyond mere Walter Mitty-itis. And, whatever his faults, no-one wishes any real ill. But whatever he is, and whatever funding he can prove, this weekend only re-emphasised that fit-and-proper to run Birmingham City FC he is not.