Why can’t football just tell Lawrence/Lauence Bazini/Bassini to s*d/sod off?
Bassini has darkened 200%’s pages many times. So, here’s a recap.
His backstory is so vague its almost not there. But the relevant bits begin when he went bankrupt in October 2007. This emerged in February 2011, not from football authority checks into the then putative Watford owner, but when a Watford Observer (WO) newspaper reader’s delve unearthed a 2007 Lawrence Bazini bankruptcy. It WAS Bassini, who claimed he changed his name to facilitate a ‘fresh start.’
Rats were smelled throughout his 13-month Watford tenure to June 2012. He claimed family wealth funded his three-year rise from benefit claimant to Championship club owner. He claimed to be an equity investor. However, he twice side-stepped Q&As about his first six months at Watford, citing illness.
And Qs needed As. In June 2011, after three high-profile on-and-off-field departures, he said he wouldn’t use “clever words” to explain them. And problems stemmed from not using ANY words to Watford’s board, such as “I’ve borrowed £951,041 and stuck it in my own company,” which he did that September. Overall, £2.6m borrowings were secured against future income, Not improper per se but about which he was obliged to, but didn’t, tell the Football League (EFL).
Then, in June 2012, a “senior member of staff” denied him access to the club safe after May salaries were paid late, without warning. Bassini denied they were late, because staff contracts said “wages need to be paid around the end of the month.” As if contracts would be so vague and mistake wages (weekly) for salaries (monthly).
That September, reports mercifully briefly emerged of a “formal offer” for Portsmouth. But in March 2013, an EFL Independent Football Disciplinary Commission (FDC) banned Bassini from football until 2016 for his Watford work. As I wrote then, if everyone “learnt their lessons from the FDC’s determinations,” no-one would “give this chanciest chancer the remotest chance in football, ever again.”
In March 2014, Bassini lost a High Court case with former Watford directors Jimmy and Vince Russo, from whom he bought 29.9% of the club. The brothers claimed that they loaned Bassini £3.6m, to help with financial “issues” early in his tenure. Bassini said the money bought the Russos a “secret” 50% of the club.
The WO’s Mike Wright surely had straight-face maintenance issues when reporting that Judge Mr Justice Spencer “was convinced” it was a loan by “the loan agreement between the two sides.” And much of Bassini’s defence was equally laughable, especially his reliance on “secret recordings” of “conversations with the Russos, which stood up his version of events.” The recordings’ ethical dubiety didn’t matter. His solicitor at Watford, Angelo Barrea, had them. And he didn’t testify because “the pair of them had fallen out.”
The judge added that “on several occasions,” Bassini “made wild and unsubstantiated allegations against parties and witnesses” and was “equally free with allegations of dishonesty.” And he “was surprised and unimpressed that, when confronted with key documents,” Bassini “claimed to have never seen them before, or certainly never studied them, even in preparing for the trial or during the hearing. I found his evidence on many occasions improbable and beyond reason.”
In June 2014, Bassini went bankrupt for the first time without a ‘z’ in his name, over an unrelated £37,500 debt. Yet he emerged at Championship financial basketcase Bolton Wanderers in 2019, sparking battles with Bolton’s then-owner Ken Anderson over who was the biggest dipsh*t.
On 17th April, Bassini presented himself as an “11th-hour” saviour from administration, but failed to prove his funding to the EFL. However, he apparently had a “bulletproof” contract to buy Anderson’s 94.5% shareholding in Inner Circle Investments, which appeared to be Bolton’s parent company for a bit. Plus £1m available to pay players. His bid collapsed on 2nd May. And relegated Bolton entered administration on 13th May.
Two months later, Bassini tried to buy Bolton from administrators, David Rubin and Partners (DRP), who had struggled to sell Wanderers thanks to Anderson’s fcukwittery. This bid foundered when he didn’t pay DRP’s £25k asking price for access to club accounts, even though (shout if this seems familiar, Birmingham fans) he told Talksport Radio that West Ham co-owner David Sullivan, who he’d known “since I was a child,” had given him £25m to “go and do this.”
DRP had a ‘preferred bidder.’ So, Bassini obtained a court order on 8th August to stop any sale. “With a combination of outrage and disgust,” DRP’s Paul Appleton condemned “a man who publicly professed to care passionately” for Bolton but “through his actions, threatened its very existence.” Mercifully, Bassini’s court order was adjourned when the EFL refuted his claims of their approval for his takeover. And Bolton was sold.
A court ruled in May 2020 that Bassini’s above-mentioned “bulletproof” contract with Anderson was genuine. So Bassini pursued legal efforts to dismantle the Bolton deal, while claiming to have arranged with Matt Southall (long story, that guy) to buy Charlton Athletic. This supposedly August 2019 deal, emerged in March 2020, by which time Southall was exiting Charlton in Bassini-esque disrepute. On May 27th, Bassini exited too, citing believable “difficulties” with former Charlton owner Roland Duchatelet. And while Bolton still had problems, Bassini wasn’t one. And he was never heard of in football again.
On 11th November 2021, Mirror newspaper journo James Nursery, who seems to specialise in speculation, wrote that Bassini was eyeing a Birmingham takeover. And, on 10th May, Bassini’s name entered discussions on a list of potential new Blues owners by Talksport Radio’s Midlands correspondent Ian Danter, it triggered presenters Jim White and Simon Jordan. White, who’d met Bassini at Sky, screamed: “Aw, naw, that finishes us RIGHT off,” while Jordan declared a “carnival of horrors.”
That evening, a Daily Mail newspaper ‘exclusive’ by Matt Hughes claimed that Bassini’s childhood sweetheart Sullivan was helping fund a bid with a £33m loan from his Rickleford Limited investment company. But, on 20th May, Mirror chief sports writer, Neil Moxley, wrote that Blues had “rejected an enquiry” from Bassini. And that, FINALLY, was that for Bassini and football.
On 13th June, Bassini claimed he’d “exchanged contracts” on a “£35m” Birmingham deal, having “signed a ‘special price agreement’ as part of a two-year plan” to own club and its St Andrews Stadium. St Andrews was sold to a wholly-owned subsidiary of Blues’ parent company Birmingham Sports Holdings (BSH) for £23m in 2019 in order to bring club losses down to within the EFL’s financial regulations. It was leased back to Blues for an annual £1.25m over 25 years.
Bassini’s contract exchange was news to local businessman and Blues fan Paul Richardson, who had submitted an offer to TTA, last month, alongside “ex-Barcelona player” Maxi Lopez, which was “conditional until 5pm” that evening. “As yet,” he said in a statement, “we have had no official acknowledgement as to whether this has been accepted or not.”
On June 15th, BSH confirmed to Hong Kong’s Stock Exchange (HKSE) that “substantial shareholder” Vong Pech had agreed “on 12th June” to sell his 21.64% of the club to an un-named buyer but that no other agreements were reached. That same day, Nursery reported, to absolutely no-one’s surprise, that Bassini “had missed a key deadline to put down a £5m deposit for his bid,” initially due at 5pm on 10th June.
Bassini’s interest sparked instant opposition. In November, football finance expert and author Kieran Maguire said “it would be a cold day in hell” before he would call Bassini “a step up” from the current owners. “(He) is not a person I would want within 100 miles of my club.” Many fans were sure he would “mess up like he did at his other clubs.” And while some were in the “couldn’t be any worse than the current lot” camp, rightly respected and loquacious Blues blogger Daniel Ivery was unusually succinct: “I hope with every ounce of my soul that this deal does not happen.”
Meanwhile, local Labour MP Shabana Mahmood called Bassini’s track record “exactly why football needs a strong regulator and a more robust process to decide who can be a club owner or director,” and said the government should “stop this deal from happening.”
So, on 15th June, Bassini went to Talksport, to clarify things, with crack football finance team, White, Jordan and…erm…Danny Mills. And Jordan ruthlessly dismantled Bassini’s…everything, Bassini saying “morning Tim” to White the zenith of the eight minutes NOT cut, after his ranting tested legal boundaries. “We have to tiptoe around various areas when Laurence joins us and today was no exception,” White said at the end, having noted that “we’re in a territory that’s too sensitive to be in” after one part of the interview that was cut.
Bassini wanted to “correct” what “Birmingham fans are told in the media.” He announced that “we’ve exchanged contracts on Sunday night,” though with whom over what, he neglected to say. “So providing there’s no problem with the stock market in Hong Kong” all was well. Although there was an, unspecified of course, “issue with the majority shareholder.”
But he fizzed into incoherence when White suggested he was “out to clear his name,” insisting: “It’s not a case of that. I’ve got builders that have gone in there today and designers to look at the lower tiers with Craig Gardner who’s the technical director there and for the changing rooms ground which is a state. I’m also looking at right now a player, Kido Taylor which is at…Arsenal…”
The previous day, Jordan said “people must get past” Bassini’s bankruptcies, as “some of the best people” had “real adversity.” Bassini thanked him for speaking “very nicely.” But Jordan was huffily unimpressed here. And their exchanges were brutal. “Why would you want to buy Birmingham?” “I’m only going to come back to football for three years, win or lose or go up.” “You might not have that luxury…as you well know.” “No. I’m saying if I should complete on this club, I will only stay in it for three years. But I will be better than the regime there now.” “That’s a low bar.”
It was worse on takeover funding. Inevitably, given Bassini’s history of having none. “Is it Sullivan’s money?” “Some of it is Sullivan’s money. Some of it is mine.” “What’s he securing it against?” “You’d have to ask David.” “Well, you’re the one taking the money. You must know the conditions of it.” “There is a document that says that should I default, David Sullivan will not take the club.”
But, White interjected: “It’s mostly funded by Sullivan. You going to put in a few million?” “Er…ten million,” Bassini replied. And Jordan was BACK: “On what condition are you putting that money in? Because if you want to do this sort of stuff you’re going to get asked these questions.” “I’ll answer that. I’m borrowing ten million against my shares.” Bassini didn’t specify what shares. Then Jordan asked THE question: “How are you going to get past the fit and proper owners test?” And Bassini gave THE answer: “Why shouldn’t I? I’ve got no criminal convictions, right? I will appear with a bank statement with the money to show I’ve got the money.”
But Jordan embarrassed Bassini again. “At the moment,” Bassini declared, “they’re working out a completion date. Providing that there’s nothing else that they come up with, it should be within days.” “Who’s they, out of curiosity?” Jordan impishly asked, echoing every listener’s thoughts. “I mean, you’ve done your due diligence.” “Between the lawyers and between the Chinese people.” “And the delisting from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange?” “And the delisting. I think there was an announcement last night regarding it.” There wasn’t, of course. And Bassini sounded as if he couldn’t even define delisting.
White concluded: “Laurence Bassini is convinced that he, by rights, will be the next owner of Birmingham City Football Club.” Bassini was the only one of the four who was.
Nursery reported on 19th June that Bassini was “told to put up or shut up by Birmingham” and faced “a final deadline this week” to complete the deal. However, Nursery didn’t specify who “Birmingham” was. And Bassini has no form whatsoever for putting OR shutting up. Instead, he claimed he had until 30th June to complete his takeover. And, by 1st July…nothing, Nursery reporting that his ‘investors’ “got cold feet” over whether Bassini would get football authority approval, and that, with Bassini’s “exclusivity” period over, the club were back talking to, y’know, vaguely credible people. Well, some, anyway.
I wish the question headlining this piece wasn’t rhetorical. And if English club football’s second-tier league was run at all responsibly, it wouldn’t need asking.
Bassini will surely be back. After all, if he wants another “fresh start,” he can call himself Basini, or Bassino. Because one letter changes everything for walkers like him.