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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

QPR's ABC Loan Problem

ABC spells trouble for five more years
By Ben Kosky - Kilburn Times - May 30, 2007

QPR chairman Gianni Paladini has revealed that the club could be saddled with their crippling ABC loan until 2012 - unless new investors come forward within weeks.

Rangers have been struggling to pay off the Panamanian-based company for the last five years, when a loan of £10m enabled the club to come out of administration.

But, after the collapse of a proposed deal with Oldham chairman Simon Blitz, Paladini has issued a desperate plea for alternative finance to help him renegotiate the ABC payments.

"Time is very short," the Rs chairman told the Times. "The conditions with ABC are that if we don't do anything in one month, the deal is set for another five years.

"The rate of interest is going up to 11.59 per cent. We need somebody with a lot of money, who can buy off the ABC loan - if anyone is capable of rearranging the deal, I want to hear from them.

"The door is open and this is the time, if there's anybody out there with QPR at heart, to come in. The club is in better condition now than it's been for a long time.

"I've tried, the rest of the board have tried, shareholders have tried and Bill Power tried when he was here - it's not easy. We need people who are serious, not a waste of time."

As proof of the club's financial recovery, Paladini points to the figures recently released in the annual report of QPR Holdings Ltd, showing a £636,000 increase in turnover for the 2005-06 season.

Also, Rangers anticipate an increase of at least 1,000 on last year's season ticket sales, and have made significant savings after the exits of higher wage earners such as Marc Bircham, Kevin Gallen and Paul Furlong.

Most importantly, perhaps, the QPR chairman insists that selling star man Lee Cook - inaccurately reported as a condition of the intended Blitz deal - is in no way a financial necessity.

"Cook was never an issue," stressed Paladini. "We had an agreement with the Americans that they would buy the ABC loan, plus put another £3m into the club.

"It was a fantastic deal for us, everything was set for them to come in and I asked them to put down a deposit. I was trying to protect the deal for QPR and I asked them to make sure everything was above board.

"It was nothing to do with selling Cook. I could easily have balanced the books by selling Cook and [Dexter] Blackstock, but I don't want to do that.

"It would weaken the team. I'm trying to build a team that can take us forward and, with John Gregory, we're going in the right direction. The only way we'll sell Cook is to have an offer we cannot refuse."

He added: "If we were in a dangerous situation financially, we'd be forced to sell him, but we're not in that situation.

"The expenditure on players was killing us, but now we'll have 24 or 25 on the books instead of 40."

With eight players released at the end of last season, Paladini expects four or five signings to be made this summer, ideally English-based players with previous experience of Championship football.

Last summer Rangers brought in largely untried overseas players such as Armel Tchakounte, Adam Czerkas and Egutu Oliseh - none of whom made any significant impact in their brief stays at Loftus Road.

Paladini conceded: "We've learnt from that experience and we're now looking at players who are established in this division, maybe some that have been in the Premiership too.

"To be successful in the Championship, you've got to have some younger players mixed with some who are experienced in this division, like [Danny] Cullip.

"We finished last season in high spirits and if John can bring in the right players, I think we can have a team to be proud of and one that can compete with anybody."

QPR'S pre-season programme is beginning to take shape, with their home game against Scottish double winners Celtic on Sunday July 15 to be followed by a trip to League Two side Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday July 28.

The club are also hoping to finalise a Loftus Road clash with neighbours Fulham, likely to be played on August 3 or 4. Kilburn Times

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