CAST was today in contact with Marian Mihail (MM) who is one of the two new board members of ESI Ltd. He contacted us at the behest of Tahnoon Nimer (TN) to whom we had written last week.
(MM is not the former footballer and coach of the same name, although he did once work for the Romanian FA as an assistant in the refereeing committee and as a match delegate.)
He explained that he is a lawyer specialising in sports law.
MM said that he was sure that Charlton fans were wondering why "two Romanians unknown to the English/British football World" were now at the top of their club. He explained that he and Claudiu Florica (CF) were known to TN since they had in the past discussed getting involved in Dinamo Bucharest. He said they were prepared to take control of Dinamo along with other persons if needed. Because of this existing relationship and trust TN was keen to work with MM and CF on sorting out the situation at Charlton, seeing as how the situation was "time-sensitive, and TN had already made a bad choice with the former board members."
MM said they were all committed to CAFC but he did not envisage being a board member "for life". His analogy was "we are not the brain surgeons who will operate on the patient and take it to The Premier League. We are just the paramedics who are patching him up and keeping him alive." MM explained that "patching him up" in this case means getting the embargo lifted and ensuring sufficient funds to retain the players and to cover the 20/21 budget "whenever that season will be able to start."
He told us that there was no problem with the sufficiency of funds, just the source. He said that TN had been to banks in Egypt and Abu Dhabi in recent days and had supplied the EFL with further documents (statements and letters of support). He understood the EFL's caution in the light of Bolton and Bury but the problem was that they might require documentation in a form which are not common in non EU countries. Nevertheless, they await feedback from EFL both on the new documents and on the Owners and Directors’ Test, to which both of them have submitted.
MM said that there is no immediate cash flow problem at CAFC but this has a lot to do with EFL advance payments. He said ESI are aiming to bring a substantial amount into the club by mid April if possible. They have contingency plans for short term cash infusions from ESI funds if this can't be achieved but are hopeful EFL will be positive about the new information.
ESI are aware of the possibility of an injunction from secured creditors with reference to the sale from Staprix to ESI. They are planning to speak to Staprix and former directors next week about this. MM stressed that this was clearly important, but that the priority at present was the immediate position with source and sufficiency of funds.
MM introduced what he termed "the elephant in the room" which is CF's criminal charges. He explained the background of the criminal case involving Microsoft and mentioned that CF had won a claim in arbitration in Ireland against Microsoft regarding these criminal charges. He said that CF’s criminal defence attorneys are "very confident of a not guilty verdict to be rendered soon". He said the judge in the case has already heard the closing arguments and is "expected to render a verdict next Tuesday, although this may be postponed, because Romania is under a state of emergency due to the COVID19 outbreak and, formally, the courts are in recess."
MM spoke further about details still emerging about MS's activities, but stressed that, as far as they are concerned, this was history and that ESI were focused on the future. He did note, however, that MS's actions will probably be subject to further legal actions aimed at either voiding damaging contracts or recovering assets purchased with CAFC money.
He stressed how impressed TN and he were with the staff at CAFC - their loyalty and integrity. Also, they have "the utmost confidence in the first team duo Lee Bowyer and Steve Gallen", of whom they are sure that "with proper funds and calm waters around the club" will steer the squad out of relegation.
MM is only too aware that there is considerable scepticism among Charlton fans about ESI. He recognises that satisfactory proof of source and sufficiency of funds is a necessary step to build some trust and confidence. He said that this is one of the reasons that the board won’t communicate very often until this is resolved.
We are grateful for Marian Mihail's time today. Like all weary Charlton supporters, we hope very much that matters can in some way be brought to a positive conclusion as soon as possible.