West Ham are braced for a takeover battle after a £350million offer was made to buy the club.
An elusive American consortium approached them last month as the first serious effort begins to wrestle control of the struggling Irons from current owners David Sullivan and David Gold.
Joint-chairman Sullivan dismissed the bid, but the US-based buyers have vowed not to give up and neither will they be satisfied with a part-share.
The mystery financiers are already involved with large scale sports in America and want outright power to reshape West Ham for the future.
Sullivan was contacted in the first week of August – not long after West Ham had secured Premier League survival by just five points.
The valuation of his club was guided by the £300million buyout going on at the time for rivals Newcastle United.
Fifty million pounds was added to the offer for West Ham because it is a London club even though, unlike Newcastle, they do not own their own ground.
Sullivan insists he does not want to sell up completely for the time being but is ready to flog a minority stake.
The consortium is now considering increasing its offer to buy the club but it is serious about striking a deal.
West Ham have attracted buyers before and London stadium sources have questioned the strength of the group’s interest.
But the American consortium want nothing less than a 51 per cent share so they can take charge of key decision making.
West Ham were listed 18th among the top earning clubs globally in the latest Deloitte rich list.
Sullivan is open to investors pumping money in to help with a cash crisis in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
This potential deal has nothing to do with American billionaire Tripp Smith who bought around ten percent of the club in 2017.
One obstacle potential new purchasers will face is that Sullivan and Gold will be hit with financial penalties if they sell the club in the next three years.
But a source told SunSport that ‘every possibility is being explored seriously to buy the club as soon as possible.’
Sullivan and his business partner Gold took over West Ham in 2010 and moved the club to the former Olympic Stadium four years ago – promising a world-class team in a world-class ground.
The team only just avoided the drop last season and there is a growing movement among fans calling for the owners to go.
Thousands of fans gathered outside the London Stadium last season to protest against the running of the club and black balloons have been released at games to voice frustrations.
Even with coronavirus restrictions in place, around 25 staged a demo at the gates of West Ham’s 60,000 seater home last Saturday before the team lost 2-0 to Newcastle.