clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

WANDERERS TAKEOVER: What Do We Know About BEC-Tero?

New, comments

Guest writer and new Head of Financial Investigations at LOV, Joe Norris, takes a look at our new Thai overlords and wonders what to expect....

Bryn Lennon

Bolton's prospective new owners - What do we know?

Who are they?

BEC-Tero, the group that appear to be the driving force behind the reported takeover bid, are part of a Thai media conglomerate with interests in television, radio, music, advertising and event tickets.

They also own a local football team, BEC-Tero Sasana FC (which they very modestly renamed after themselves upon taking over), currently coached by former Chelsea manager and Baron Greenback impersonator Avram Grant.

Their reported partners in the deal, Siam Sport Syndicate (SSS), are another Thai media company; this time with a specific interest in sport.

They publish 5 separate daily sport-based newspapers in Thailand - as well as the Thai versions of FHM and Stuff magazines - and operate 2 TV channels, Star Soccer TV and Football Siam TV which have broadcast rights for the Thai Premier League.

The company also, like BEC-Tero, owns a local team - Muangthong United, reportedly one of the richest in Thailand.

Do they have the money?

In a word: yes. The latest annual report from BEC's parent company shows assets of £232.8m - including £48m in cash - plus turnover for 2013 of around £317.6m, more than enough to be able to raise funds to meet the reported £40m asking price for Bolton Wanderers.

This financial muscle does, however, raise the question of why they feel the need to involve SSS (whose relatively paltry £52.3m turnover makes them very much the junior partner) in the deal. Hopefully the role played by SSS will become clearer once the actual structure of any proposed deal is made public.

The other big money-related issue with this deal is Bolton's massive debt. I find it very hard to believe that the potential new owners would pay £40m to Eddie Davies only to then be saddled with owing him £160m in debt attached to the club.

This suggests that Eddie may well be preparing to cut his losses and walk away, essentially taking 25p in the pound on the money he has loaned to the club in order to recoup as much of his investment as is realistically possible while writing off the rest.

What do they want with Bolton?

Now this is the $64,000 question: what could two Thai media giants with, as far as I can tell, no current operations outside Southeast Asia, possibly want with a struggling, heavily-indebted (as it stands), second tier football club in the North West of England?

While both do have successful Thai Premier League teams, these make up tiny fractions of their overall businesses and the amount of investment required is absolutely miniscule compared to the proposed takeover of Bolton.

We can only speculate as to their intentions at this stage, but a large clue can be found in the statement made by the BEC-Tero Managing Director, Bryan Marcar:

"As for the bid to take over Bolton, I must admit I have a close relationship with the club's president. The club has plenty of property, and most importantly, they have their own stadium, hotel and football academy.

"In terms of their financial status, they made profits between 2004 and 2006, but suffered losses since then, with their debt now standing at 150 million pounds. However, the club is willing to address this situation.

They're quite ready in almost every aspect. That will help us benefit in many ways, especially when it comes to Thai players playing in England,"

What worries me is the lack of any mention of the Premier League or, indeed, the football team in general.

Other Thai owners, such as those at Leicester City, saw promotion to the Premier League as the primary goal and the primary revenue generator, whereas Mr Marcar seems to focus on another aspect: the club's assets.

Our ownership of the stadium, training ground etc is one of the few bright points of the club's current financial situation and anything that jeopardised that would only be a bad thing in the long run, regardless of any short-term investment.

Another clue lies in BEC's interest in concerts and event tickets.

This is pure speculation on my part, but I suspect that their interest in the Macron Stadium may have more to do with its potential as a concert venue than the football team that happen to play there.

Giant outdoor gigs are big business these days (see the ticket prices that the likes of One Direction charge for their stadium tours) and it's possible that BEC see Bolton as their route into this growing market.

Of course, this could all just be another cheap publicity stunt of the type orchestrated recently by a prominent local businesswoman (which I refuse to dignify by naming her) so it's not worth getting too excited or worried about yet. As always with Bolton Wanderers, we should hope for the best while preparing for the worst.

Best case scenario:

Pep Guardiola's Bolton Wanderers lift the 2018/19 Champions League trophy with a display of total football not seen since the Dutch at the 1974 World Cup.

Worst case scenario:

Avram Grant's Bolton Red Dragons are forced to play their final League Two game at Ewood Park due to a clash with Justin Bieber's headline show at the Macron Stadium.