Baggies chairman kicks off reign with major debt repayment

Shilen Patel. Credit: WBA

Shilen Patel has kicked off his tenure at West Bromwich Albion by clearing one of its outstanding debts.

Former chairman and controlling shareholder Guochuan Lai took out a £4.95m loan in March 2021 to help another of his companies – Wisdom Smart Corporation, through the pandemic. It has not been repaid by Lai.

The money has now been “repaid in full, including interest” by Patel to the club.

Lai said at the start of 2023 that the money would be returned with £50k interest by 31st December 2022. This date was set after Lai postponed repayment from September 2021.

West Brom was taken over by Florida-based entrepreneur and investor Patel and his father Dr Kiran C. Patel last month after the pair acquired an 87.8% stake in the club with their firm Bilkul Football WBA.

Patel has also taken on the outstanding £30m loan from MSD and will be looking at repaying at a suitable time.

Another loan has been restructured with Brierley Hill-based Warmfront, owned by Alex Hearn.

Lai took out a £2m loan from the heating firm in August 2022 and secured against a portion of his shares in the football club. He came under fierce scrutiny from fans for his financial management throughout his reign.

The loan was restructured by the corporate team at the Liverpool office of national law firm Glaisyers ETL.

The Glaisyers ETL team acting for Hearn included Adrian Rogers, corporate partner and head of the firm’s Liverpool office, and Gareth Farrelly, senior associate and a specialist in commercial litigation and sports law.

Rogers said: “We are pleased to have assisted Alex with this matter. It is well documented that he had lent the club money when they were in financial difficulty.

“His priority was always to assist the club during what was a very challenging time. He is pleased that the matter has been resolved and that the new owner has now completed the purchase of the club, and he wishes him, the supporters, and the club nothing but success in the future.”

Glaisyers ETL advises some of the biggest football clubs in the world, and overseas investors on the acquisition of UK sports clubs. It also advises individual players and athletes on a range of contractual, intellectual property and tax regulation matters.

In 2023 strengthened its sports practice when it hired Farrelly, a former Republic of Ireland, Everton, Bolton Wanderers and Aston Villa footballer who retrained as a solicitor following his retirement from professional football.

The firm, which was established in Manchester in 1974, opened its Liverpool office in spring 2023.