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Ron Gourlay answers West Brom takeover question GuochuaLais

Ron Gourlay answers West Brom takeover question  GuochuaLais

Chief executive Ron Gourlay discusses the prospect of a West Brom takeover, the need for fresh investment and Guochuan Lais stance

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Ron Gourlay has confirmed that he has not been approached once in the near 12 months hes been chief executive of West Bromwich Albion by any party interested in buying out Guochuan Lais major stake in the club.

The vast majority of the Albion fanbase long for a takeover, in the hope that with it would bring a more hands-on approach from the very top of the club, and with it greater investment. Lai, who has been the clubs controlling shareholder since 2016, hasnt visited The Hawthorns to visit his business - which cost him north of 200m - in over a year.

Its widely acknowledged that the clubs best chance of making itself an attractive proposition for any prospective buyers is to be in the Premier League - that was a major factor in Lais thinking in the first place, when he bought Jeremy Peaces shares over six years ago. Its also generally accepted, by Lai himself, that when the time comes to hand over the keys, he cant hope to make a profit - or even break even.

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Gourlay revealed that hed be compelled to communicate with Lai should any parties come forward presenting an interest or an offer, but theyve not been forthcoming while hes held his current role.

The valuation of football clubs at that time, when there was a large influx from China, all four clubs here were taken over, Gourlay said. The President went to the Etihad, blah blah blah. They were going to build all these academies, they wanted to host the World Cup. To pay 220m was probably a fair bit over the market price at that time.

The market sets the price now, so 220m is not on the table - not even close. He understands that, of course. Hes a businessman. I havent had any group or any person come to me in the year Ive been here asking me to buy the club - if I did, under my directorship, Id have to pass that to the owner. Thats not something I can just say no to.

Id have to pass that on. Ive not had a direct approach since I took over in February. You look at whats happening out there - Man United and Liverpool have said theyre looking for investment - theyre looking for a buyer. Theyre guided in the way they word it. [Lai] never talks to me about his [current] valuation.

What is Lais end goal? What can he hope to achieve? Its clear that he hoped for the takeover to be followed with more of the same - that Albion could be left to their own devices, remain self-sufficient and that itd require minimal investment. Things didnt work out like that, of course, and now, Albion are facing up the very real prospect of operating without the comfort blanket of parachute payments or top flight revenue - for the first time in 20 years.

While what Lai sees for Albion in the future is not clear, why he bought into the club in the first place is more straightforward - it was in a summer where Fosun, Trillion Trophy Asia and Tony Xia also targeted West Midlands football as China looked to spread its wings in English football.

Ive never really had the conversation with him about why he got into it in the first place, but I think there was lots going on in China - there was the Super League, Chelsea were selling Ramires and Oscar and they were trying to develop football in China, Gourlay recalled. Well spend some money, well try and work out how football clubs operate in Europe - they bought Inter Milan as well - and then, suddenly, the reins are pulled back in.

Then it was were not going to pay these big salaries anymore, were going to focus on youth and academies - its what they shouldve done in the first place, then theyd have had a team who are fit to operate in World Cups. They should, its a big country, but they went the wrong way. India tried it many years ago.

Hes certainly totally aware of the fans views, completely and utterly aware. Hes aware of my view, I cant share that with you, I trust youll understand that, but hes aware of my view. Every club out there is looking for investment, thats what we have to look at.

On the ground, Gourlay is working within a small board made up of himself, Mark Miles and Xu Ke, the latter being his predecessor and the man who sanctioned the 4.95m loan to Lai to aid his company Wisdom Smart in March 2021. Ken works generally at The Hawthorns, while Gourlay remains based at the training ground, overseeing the day to day running of the club.

The working relationship between the pair is amicable, although its clear that friction might be forgiven - especially based on the difference on stances regarding the clubs historical loans - Ken sanction that Lai loan as mentioned, while Gourlay has since insisted that no money will leave the clubs accounts on his watch. Hes also arranged for the ongoing investigation by Kings Counsel into the 3.7m loan in 2014, during the Peace era.

I cause friction anyway! If I dont agree with it, I dont agree, Gourlay said candidly. I wont pull any punches. Ive been in football for 30 years. I cant change the way I am, if I dont agree, I will do it in a professional manner and offer advice. Things must stay private at certain times, but people in this football club know my view.

Thats important to me. When I joined the football club, it was as an adviser. I had one day a week at the training ground and then a second day going to the games. I didnt join any meetings, it was just seeing with my own eyes what was and what wasnt going on. When I took the job, the challenge increased. I could see it was going to be a bigger job - and Ive had big jobs.

I could see that there were challenges emerging that I didnt know about. That isnt anybodys fault, I didnt need to know about it, people didnt tell me - and in some cases it wouldve been nicer if they did, but it doesnt always work that way. I just have to get on and deal with them.

Im dealing with things going back to 2014. I cant talk about the investigation, but why am I, in 2023, dealing with 2023? It has to be dealt with, because otherwise itll be here in 2028. It wont go away, so Im not one for sweeping things under the carpet.

When Ken was chief executive, he was obviously around a bit more. Im more based at the training ground, and Ken is based at the stadium - at the moment were talking quite a lot because hes passing a number of messages on for me, on a daily basis. I do have access to him via email, and we do have regular board meetings.

One of the first things when I came in that needed to happen was for Lai to be chairman, for access. Every monthly board meeting, I have access, but it also gives me the ability to communicate. Recently, its been everyday.

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