Pompey get fourth owner of the season

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LONDON, February 4 – Hong Kong-based businessman Balram Chainrai became the fourth owner that Portsmouth have had this season, the struggling English Premier League club confirmed on Thursday.Chainrai’s company, Portpin, took a controlling interest in the financially-stricken club from Ali Al-Faraj after exercising provisions linked to a 17-million-pound loan it made to the former owner, a Saudi Arabian national based in the British Virgin Islands.

Chainrai, who is of Nepalese origin but has a British passport, hopes to stabilise the club before selling it on to new owners in order to recoup his investment.

Peter Storrie, the current chief executive, will continue to run the club on a day-to-day basis.

In a statement, Chainrai added: "Portpin has made substantial loans to Portsmouth to try and ensure the club’s future. Portpin will continue to work for the best interests of the club."

The move makes Portsmouth the second Premier League club to be controlled from Hong Kong following Carson Yeung’s takeover of Birmingham in October.

Chainrai’s loans to Al-Faraj had been secured against the 90 percent stake that the Saudi acquired in October from previous owner Sulaiman al-Fahim, who had only taken over in August when Sacha Gaydamak sold his interest.

Portsmouth’s financial difficulties have been underlined by the club’s failure to pay staff and players on time on four occasions so far this season and there appears to be a strong chance that it will be forced into administration before the end of the campaign.

Gaydamak claims he is still owned 28 million pounds by the club and Portsmouth are also being pursued by British authorities for 7.5 million pounds of allegedly unpaid VAT (value added tax).

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs served a winding-up petition on the club in December. An appeal against the petition is due to be heard in England’s High Court on February 10.

Portsmouth are also struggling on the pitch. A 1-0 defeat at Fulham on Wednesday evening left them five points adrift at the bottom of the Premier League after 16 defeats in 23 matches.

Portsmouth’s chances of survival were further reduced during the January transfer window, when the parlous state of the club’s finances forced directors to sell Bosnia goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, to Stoke, and key defender Younes Kaboul, who returned to Tottenham.

Those sales followed the departure of Glen Johnson and Peter Crouch at the start of the season and that of fellow England international Jermain Defoe in January 2009.

The fact that Portsmouth had so many established internationals on their books reflected the extent to which the medium-sized south coast club had over-reached itself in the transfer market.

That approach paid off when Portsmouth lifted the FA Cup in 2008 but the price of that success was an unsustainable wage bill which is at the root of the current problems.

Chainrai had expected to recoup a substantial portion of his loan last month when Portsmouth were due to receive seven million pounds of television revenues. Instead, the Premier League diverted the funds directly to other clubs still owed money by Portsmouth for players.

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