Manchester City Football Club's Kick Out Of The Premier Thaksin
( Last edit 2009-09-17 )
Originally : City dump Thaksin from president's role
By Daniel Taylor, The Guardian February 11, 2009
Thaksin Shinawatra's position at Manchester City was considered 'inappropriate' by the club's Abu Dhabi owners.
Manchester City have dismissed Thaksin Shinawatra from his position as the honorary club president after deciding the time was right to take a stance against a man who has been convicted of multi-million-pound corruption and is currently on the run from the authorities in Thailand after being sentenced to two years in prison.
City's rulers in Abu Dhabi took the decision after high-level talks over the past few weeks to determine what to do about the way the former owner had become an increasing source of embarrassment to his successors at Eastlands.
The new owner, Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, concluded that it would be "inappropriate" to allow Thaksin to continue holding such a prominent position and that the former prime minister of Thailand should become the first high-profile casualty of their reign.
Simon Pearce, the sheikh's personal envoy, and the other English representatives on City's board were also aware that the Premier League had strong objections about the involvement of a fugitive who was once described by Human Rights Watch as "a human-rights abuser of the worst kind".
Thaksin, who accepted the position when he sold the club to ADUG last September, has been on the run, spending time in the Middle East, China and the Bahamas, since his UK visa was cancelled in November. His current whereabouts are unknown to City but the club's executive chairman, Garry Cook, managed to get a message to the 59-year-old, via intermediaries, before the 1-0 defeat of Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Thaksin's name was subsequently removed from the match-day programme and has also been taken off the club's website as well as various places inside the stadium.
He has always maintained his innocence, describing his conviction at Thailand's supreme court last October as "politically motivated", and claiming he had to flee the country because it was not safe for him to stay.
Thaksin, who made a 120m profit by selling City, may now try to sell his remaining 10% stake in the club as tries to build a new life – he is reported to be building a 5.5m property in China – and fight Thailand's extradition procedures.
How Thaksin turned from saviour to sinner in a single season
By David Conn, The Guardian, May 14, 2008
Fans who failed to question the Thai owner's past are now shocked to see how authoritarian he can be. Manchester City fans have been surprised by Thaksin Shinawatra's harsh treatment of Sven-Goran Eriksson.
When Manchester City were about to be sold to Thaksin Shinawatra last summer the men in charge of City rejected any concerns about whether his really was the safest pair of hands for the self-styled true Manchester club. A cursory Google search could have told them of the long-standing allegations of human rights abuses, including the killing without trial of people suspected of drugs offences, while Thaksin was the prime minister of Thailand, and of other authoritarian aspects of his rule.
He had, though, been consistently popular with a majority of Thais, including the rural poor, until he was overthrown by a military coup in 2006 and corruption proceedings were instigated against him. The military government froze £900m of his assets before the City deal was done, leading one of the club's advisers to say that, although enough money was certainly there for Thaksin to buy the club, it was uncertain how much he would have to invest once he had control.
None of this baggage deterred the club's directors or John Wardle and David Makin, the two major shareholders who had, between them, loaned £19.2m to shore City up after previously sanctioning Kevin Keegan's spending spree. Last June they recommended the club be sold for £21.6m to Thaksin, who would repay Wardle and Makin £17.5m of their loans. The price valued City shares at 40p each, significantly more than their market value at the time but a substantial loss for many City shareholders; in a rights issue back in 1999, with City only just promoted from the third tier, shareholders were asked to invest by buying more shares at 90p.
Last year, although back in the Premier League, City had made an £11m loss and owed £68m; they had in December 2006 borrowed £10m against the 2007-08 TV money, season ticket sales were down after a grim season under Stuart Pearce, and so the club were sold for 1/40th of the £800m the Glazer family paid for Manchester United.
Most City fans demonstrated that they had no interest at all in Thaksin's background or record in Thailand and there was little opposition to the sale. City's hierarchy reckoned accurately that the fans cared only about seeing the team play better football, and they were won over in three extraordinary weeks which saw Sven-Goran Eriksson appointed as the manager and a dizzying round of signings, orchestrated by the agent Jerome Anderson, including Martin Petrov, Vedran Corluka, Rolando Bianchi, Gelson Fernandes, Javier Garrido, Valeri Bojinov and the Brazilian international Elano who, in particular, lit up City's remarkably sunny start to the season.
Thaksin laid on a free Thai buffet and entertainment in front of Manchester Town Hall and 9,000 City fans were estimated to have accepted that hospitality. At the time, the first two Thaksin Shinawatra clips on YouTube were of the man himself attempting to sing Blue Moon at that jamboree and footage of anti-Thaksin demonstrations in Bangkok from just before the military coup.
For City fans, rivalry with United surpasses most worldly concerns and Eriksson's and Thaksin's places in the crowd's affections were secured by February's second league victory over United, the first double over United for 38 years. The City supporters, kept behind after the 2-1 victory at Old Trafford, found themselves alone in the stadium with Thaksin Shinawatra's family in the directors' box and got up an ecstatic chorus of: "There's only one Frank Sinatra"- the nickname the fans gave him because the names sound similar.
In modern times, of course, City are cursed to be outdone, so the season they beat United twice ended with United crowned Premier League champions and preparing for the Champions League final while City were losing 8-1 at Middlesbrough and fans calling for Eriksson to be spared were running into trouble with the Riverside stewards.
Supporters who did not care to familiarise themselves with Thaksin's nature are now shocked, horrified, that he has been a little authoritarian in his treatment of their football manager. For those seeking an explanation as to why his discussions with Eriksson at Manchester's Radisson Edwardian Hotel last month apparently turned so final, the answer appears simply that he expected City to be doing better.
One adviser close to Thaksin said the owner had not responded well to Eriksson, a stronger character than he appears publicly, robustly defending his performance. Others advised Thaksin that overall, despite a drop in form since January, City had shown great improvement for a team without a huge squad and with key players, including Micah Richards, out injured. Yet nobody was able to influence Thaksin, who was said to have been incandescent with fury after watching City squander a 2-0 lead against Fulham three weeks ago and lose 3-2. Thaksin is understood to have repeated, with disbelief, that the odds against Fulham doing that were 400-1.
In Thailand it was a feature of Thaksin's political regime that he demanded high performance from his senior staff, called for rapid improvements and regularly sacked ministers after short periods in office. One source at City said Thaksin genuinely wanted the club to succeed and the Thai directors he appointed were serious and keen to learn - the club is proud that its community programme has continued to grow in strength - but that he knew too little about football and believed a manager could be similarly dispensed with and a replacement quickly found.
Thaksin has not attended all City matches himself, having been busy fighting off the two corruption charges eventually laid against him and helping the PPP, the political party comprising many former members of his dissolved Thai Rak Thai party, to win the Thai elections. His ownership of City, in a nation hooked on televised Premier League matches, has been a priceless vehicle for buffing his public image and it is apt that the final meetings at which Eriksson is due to learn his fate are expected to take place during City's tour of Thailand, rather than in Manchester.
Thaksin is understood to have told his advisers that Jose Mourinho heads his list of wanted managers; it is not known whether they ventured to quote him odds on the "Special One" choosing City. As for the World Cup winner Luiz Felipe Scolari, he may treat City's as a welcome first approach as he ponders his next move after managing Portugal in the forthcoming European Championship.
Away from Thai politics and business where his writ ran near absolutely, Thaksin will find that, in the wider world of football, managers talk, and gaining a reputation as a sacker of Eriksson may not bode well for tempting a replacement. Nor is it clear whether any new manager will have money to spend.
Thaksin has not proved to be the Roman Abramovich-style exotic sugar daddy City fans hoped for when they embraced "Frank" as their club's owner, with few questions asked. His end-of-season review is expected to include appointing an executive chairman, reportedly Garry Cook from Nike, above the chief executive, Alistair Mackintosh, with a brief to make City a global "brand". Cook's first task is likely to be more basic: searching the world for a manager.
Thaksin Shinawatra's reign at Manchester City began in a blaze of signings (seven, including Rolando Bianchi, Javier Garrido, Martin Petrov and Elano, left) with a headline value of £50.6m, but the deals are understood to have been structured to be payable in instalments, so it is not clear how much money Thaksin himself has put into the club. The £21.6m to buy the shares was paid, and the £19.2m previously owed to John Wardle and David Makin is now owed to Thaksin's company, UK Sports Investments Ltd. However, until City's next accounts are published in January 2009, there need be no public declaration of the club's finances, including whether Thaksin has put money in himself. Last December he told reporters in Hong Kong that running City had been 'very expensive' and said he was going to work on securitisation, a form of borrowing money against future ticket and TV income.