A lot will be said and written about our current chairman and owner Dejphon Chansiri for months to come, but I think to have a fuller and more complete understanding of everything, we must head back in time to when Milan Mandaric was in post.
Mandaric did a solid job as Wednesday owner in my opinion. He knew what he could and couldn’t do in terms of finance and could run Sheffield Wednesday based on his experience in the game, the people he surrounded himself with, and his list of contacts. One contact, Pini Zahavi, will receive several mentions in this piece.
Mandaric always insisted he would be willing to sell the club to a party who could accelerate progress based on their financial capabilities, because, as we all know, Mandaric didn’t have an endless pot of cash. It was evidenced by multiple loans attached to the stadium from the likes of former West Ham chairman Terry Brown, and, of course, super-agent Pini Zahavi (https://www.insidermedia.com/news/yorkshire/103465-).
Mandaric was quoted multiple times, suggesting he will stand aside if the right person or persons came along (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2056306/Sheffield-Wednesday-sold-says-Milan-Mandaric.html). However, I don’t believe this is the case. In my opinion, Mandaric would and did attempt to complete a sale of Sheffield Wednesday to anyone who had the money to buy.
The year of 2014 saw Mandaric shake on deals to sell Sheffield Wednesday to two parties, both of who turned out not to be the right person or persons. The first, as everyone is aware, was Hafiz Mammadov. Mammadov owned football clubs FC Baku and RC Lens, both of which have suffered financially due to the man from Azerbaijan. Mammadov failed to provide proof of funding to complete the deal to buy the club, however, and the sale collapsed.
Anyone who has read the prologue of the book “The Deal” by Jon Smith, available to buy here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deal-Inside-World-Super-Agent/dp/1472123026, will be aware of events in Ukraine, 2014. Jon Smith, accompanied by football agent Roberto de Fanti and Peter Storrie headed to meet prospective buyers of Sheffield Wednesday in Odesa, Ukraine.
They did so on behalf of Mandaric, with the group stating beforehand they were looking to get their money out of Ukraine into somewhere safe, and they thought Wednesday could be that place. The process in Odessa saw a meeting take place in an outbuilding behind a disused factory, one which Mandaric attended, where there was a revolver present.
The deal for these people, whose real names are not in the book due to concerns over safety, even now, was struck with a handshake between the outfit’s leader and Mandaric at a party where a host of Ukranian prostitutes were laid on for Team Mandaric. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the Ukranian guy allegedly wanting to buy Wednesday had scars from bullets and stabbings, which he said came via “business deals gone wrong.”
Now, you may be wondering where I intend to go with this. Well, in my opinion, it immediately suggests two things. The first is that Mandaric wanted to sell the club to anyone who had the money. And, the second is that Smith, de Fanti and Storrie, all were set to receive £1 million for effectively brokering the deal. It did turn out that Smith heard on the grapevine agents were taken to Ukraine and mistreated for some reason, so the deal never came to fruition. Smith mentioned something worth remembering, and that is “people are naïve in the extreme if they think football transactions are only conducted between upstanding businessmen with legitimate funding.”
So, Mandaric had so far unsuccessfully failed to sell the club, and I believe it was at this point that Pini Zahavi became involved in some way, shape or form. Mandaric and Zahavi had previous when it came to these types of transactions (https://www.theguardian.com/football/david-conn-inside-sport-blog/2012/mar/20/pini-zahavi-portsmouth). Zahavi, while renowned as a super-agent, is a shadowy character in my opinion, and it doesn’t take much digging to find information on this.
I mentioned above about the amount that can be picked up for brokering such deals, and let’s face it; money is the crucial component here. I think this is where, and why, another man came into the picture, that man being Pairoj Piempongsant. Pairoj is the father of Pete Piempongsant, who many will recall being by the current Wednesday chairman’s side often.
Pairoj had been the deal maker for Thaksin Shinawatra to buy Manchester City and then was involved in the Abu Dhabi United Group’s takeover. He was also the man to bring the Thai consortium to Reading in 2014, and yes, he has links to Zahavi. (https://theblacksea.eu/stories/football-leaks-2018/superagent-pini-zahavis-secret-influence-over-club-in-Belgium-revealed/)
I believe that our chairman wasn’t initially looking to buy a football club. I heard whispers of him being interested in buying property, rather than a club. However, a call put into him about the potential of buying Wednesday while he was on holiday in Switzerland.
Do I think the person making the call will have told the chairman, a man with zero football knowledge, of the realities of owning a football club? No. Do I think they will have sold him a dream to ensure they banked a broker’s fee? Of course. Do I think they saw him coming? Undoubtedly.
And this is where the story begins.