By Andrew Lloyd Williams & Wayne Veysey
London-based banker Vladimir Antonov and his business partner Roman Dubov have put together a £6.5 million package to purchase the newly promoted League One club, buy back Dean Court stadium and build a state-of-the-art academy.
But chairman Eddie Mitchell told the Russians, who submitted a £2m offer to buy the club on 15 June, that Bournemouth is “not for sale” even though they had emailed a proof of funds document to the board.
Antonov, 34, who has an estimated personal fortune of £200m and was ranked Russia’s 182nd richest millionaire in 2007, is believed to have made his money in finance.
Earlier this year, he was the chairman and biggest investor, with a 29.9 per cent shareholding, in luxury Dutch carmaker Spyker, which was in talks to buy Saab from General Motors. In February, he wrote a strongly-worded editorial in the New York Times claiming that there were "strong prejudices against investors from Russia".
Antonov and Dubov’s investment vehicle Convers Group Holdings has been in regular contact with Mitchell this month. The pair set out a budget of £6m to buy the club, purchase Bournemouth’s Dean Court stadium from landlords Structadene and secure property and land in the ground’s vicinity.
A source close to the pair dubbed Bournemouth "Chelsea by the sea" and said the Russians are fond of the south coast resort.
“We would create an academy and the club would own all its assets,” the source told Goal.com UK. “The club has no huge debt and has Premiership potential but we find the greed of [the] board blocking us.”
Bournemouth went into administration in 2008, were docked 10 points by the Football League and relegated from League One but they bounced back last season under Mitchell’s regime and the supervision of 32-year-old rookie manager Eddie Howe.
Mitchell told Goal.com UK: “It's not something I'm just going to get rid of. I'm local, I'm here at 6am every day working. What am I going do if I don't do that? It's my life and I'm not selling it.”
The League One club were forced to sell Dean Court in 2005 but negotiated a deal with landlords Structadene that includes a buy-back option which started at £4.25m and rises £60,000 a year for five years. It would cost the club, who pay £315,000 a year in rent, £4.55m to own the stadium.
Antonov and Dubov have pledged they will provide Howe with immediate funds to buy players, that the stadium and all assets would once again be owned by the club, that a fourth stand will be built at the ground using the owners' money and that the club would become debt-free immediately.
The source continued: “AFC Bournemouth would be secure and stable and competitive in League One and hopefully pushing for greater divisions. What can Eddie Mitchell offer the fans? Another year of fundraising?”
Mitchell insisted that the progress the club has made is the reason for interest from investors.
He said: “The club is doing absolutely fantastic. It's buzzing. It's not been in this position for many years. It's virtually debt-free, it's going places and that's probably why there's a lot of interest in it but it isn’t for sale.”