US businessman finalises investment in Birmingham City

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Tom Wagner, co-founder of New York-based Knighthead Capital Management, has agreed to acquire a stake in Birmingham City and assume ownership of the Championship club’s home stadium, St. Andrew’s.

It was announced yesterday (Monday) that Birmingham Sports Holdings will transfer 24% of its shares in the club to Shelby Companies Limited, an affiliate of Knighthead.

Oriental Rainbow Investments Limited and Achiever Global Group Limited will also transfer 21.64% of their shares in the club and 100% of the shares in Birmingham City Stadium Limited to Shelby Companies Limited.

Upon completion of the transfer of shares, Shelby Companies Limited will own 45.64% of Birmingham City PLC and all of St. Andrew’s. The deals are subject to approval from the English Football League (EFL) and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

In a statement, Birmingham confirmed that the club will remain under the control of the current board until the relevant owners and directors tests have been approved by the EFL and after the completion of the contracts. According to the Mirror, the deal is worth £35m (€40m/$44m).

Wagner, who attended Birmingham’s 2-1 home defeat against Sheffield United yesterday, said in a letter to fans: “Knighthead’s expertise is in turning around and transforming organisations that are experiencing difficulties. We have a passion for sport. We have been involved in, and have seen first-hand, its ability to drive positive economic and social change.

“We plan to commit the resources, in line with EFL guidelines, the skills and the determination needed to deliver transformational improvements for the good of the club and the good of the city. The potential for Birmingham City is unlimited.”

Wagner said that plans will be put in place to transform the club’s fortunes through improved infrastructure and new commercial partnerships, with the first step to ensure that St. Andrew’s is “fit for purpose”.

Birmingham has played at St. Andrew’s since the stadium opened in 1906 but the facility has fallen into a state of disrepair in recent years. Last month, the club announced that repair work in the lower sections of the Kop and Tilton Road stands is scheduled for completion during the 2023-24 season.

Sections of St. Andrew’s have been closed for the best part of two seasons due to structural issues. This has resulted in a significant reduction in stadium capacity and the club announced in October that it hoped St. Andrew’s would return to full working order in time for the start of the 2023-24 season.

Wagner said: “The fans, players, and our partners deserve an improved St. Andrew’s. We plan to work in partnership with the City Council to explore all options available to us to transform our physical infrastructure. Regardless of what the future holds, St. Andrew’s will remain part of our community, and our history.”

Reports of Wagner’s proposed investment in Birmingham first emerged last month.

The Mirror reported that the new investors would look to redevelop the St. Andrew’s site into social housing, with talks said to be underway to move the club to a new stadium built on a 40-acre plot of derelict land at Birmingham Wheels Park. Wagner has not officially commented on these plans.