Foreign investors to buy indebted football club as controversies arise

Wisła Kraków, a 13-time Polish football champion who has recently been on the verge of bankruptcy, seems to have found salvation, as Cambodian and British shareholders reportedly bought the club.

On Tuesday, representatives of the Sports Society "Wisła" Kraków met with the Luxembourgish-British consortium of investment funds, during which a conditional agreement was signed for the sale of 100 percent of the shares in Wisła Kraków joint-stock company.

The details of the contract are strictly confidential. The contract will become effective over the next few days.

Currently, the short-term debts of the club are around PLN 40 mln. Moreover, Wisła owes PLN 47 mln (EUR 10.9 mln) to its former owner, the cable company Tele-Fonika, but this is regarded as a long-term debt and does not have to be paid immediately.

The new owners have pledged to repay the license debt (PLN 12 mln - EUR 2.8 mln) by December 28, which was the necessary condition for the transaction to be completed. Then, they will deal with the rest of the short-term debts (PLN 28 mln - EUR 6.5 mln). Over the next 12 months, Wisła Kraków is to receive funds amounting to PLN 130 mln (EUR 30.3 mln ). This could mean that the acclaimed football club would be miraculously saved.

Enigmatic investors

However, little specific information can be found about the investors.

The Alelega fund (with a branch office in Europe - Luxembourg Sàrl) is the Cambodian shareholder who guaranteed a majority stake (60 percent) in Wisła.The fund is headed by Ly Vanna, portrayed as a person associated with the Cambodian royal family and a great financial magnate.

On the internet, there are very few details regarding the activities of Mr Vanna and his great fortune.

Apart from the enigmatic Alelega fund, Ly Vanna is associated with several companies operating in France and Switzerland. According to the football agent Adam Pietrowski, who will most likely become a new sports director of Wisła Kraków, the Cambodian businessman has shares in several football clubs, including New York City, Slavia Praga, Yokohama FC, Vitoria Guimaraes, as well as in several Brazilian and Argentinian teams.

The remaining shares (40 percent) will be in the hands of the British company Noble Capital Partners Limited, represented in negotiations by the Swede, Mats Hartling. This company specializes in the trade of company assets.

Mr Hartling himself is simultaneously associated with a significant number of companies. Several allegations of embezzlement have been made against him on the Internet, although their credibility is difficult to verify, but so are the company’s financial credibility and the activities of its representatives.

Noble Capital Partners first took an interest in Wisła at the beginning of November. At that time, the Sports Society recognised them as a contractor with too little financial credibility to negotiate. Nevertheless, the situation changed as the club was on the verge of bankruptcy, and then the Brits came forward alongside the Asian investors.

The aforementioned Mr Pietrowski is also a business partner of Mr Hartling. Both men have several companies with minimal capital registered in Poland, but their financial condition would not be enough to take over the football club at this level. In 2017, Noble Capital's assets were estimated at just over GBP 300,000.

Amid all those uncertainties, only the future of the current management of Wisła Kraków seems clear - they will leave the club as soon as the terms of sale are met.