Lotus chief Fernandes admits he talked to Norwich City
Tony Fernandes has admitted he discussed investing in Norwich City during their time in League One – but has no problem seeing them fly into the Premier League without him.
The Malaysian entrepreneur and team principal of Norfolk’s Formula One constructor Team Lotus was touted as a possible financial partner at Carrow Road early last year, as the Canaries looked to turn their fortunes around both on and off the pitch.
It was something the 47-year-old Air Asia founder – said to be worth more than �185m – was considering, having lost out on being involved at West Ham United alongside trying to get Hingham’s F1 project off the ground.
And although Fernandes felt the appeal of marrying his involvement with two of sport’s famous yellow and green outfits, he opted to keep his sporting efforts focused on the racing track.
“We talked, we talked definitely and there was a whole emotional appeal of everything Norfolk and green and yellow, and it made sense,” said Fernandes, of investing in the Canaries. “And there’s no reason why we can’t work together in the future and do things together.
“I’m thrilled at what’s happened at Norwich – and I’ve also got to know my own capabilities in life and you don’t want to give yourself indigestion.
“It’s fun – I tried to buy West Ham and failed, and it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.”
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The Norwich City board carried out its own global search for fresh investment last year through Deloitte, as the club tried to come to terms with League One football and record debts that hit �23m.
Although the extensive search drew a blank, on the pitch the situation turned around dramatically as Paul Lambert’s side booked historic back-to-back promotions and a return to the riches of English football’s top table.
The Canaries stated their intention at the last annual meeting in January to make the club self-sufficient – an aim that a minimum �39m of Premier League revenue should help achieve.
And Fernandes is delighted the Canaries have done so well with resources that were already at their disposal.
“That’s the good thing, isn’t it?” said Fernandes. “As I’ve said to a few people around here, it’s not all about money. Team Lotus has a substantially smaller budget than most F1 teams, but pound for pound I think we’ve done very well.
“And I think Norwich are doing the same thing. It’s amazing – motivation and passion does a lot for people, so good luck to them.”
While the Canaries have prospered in recent times, the same cannot be said for West Ham and, despite originally missing out on buying the club he supports, Fernandes has suggested he is prepared to try again following the Hammers’ relegation to the Championship.
Fernandes lost out to David Sullivan and David Gold at the start of 2010 but with huge debts – said to be about �80m – still hanging around the East End club and now a second tier budget to work with, the Malaysian may step in to replace the current controversial owners.
“If the fans want me to get involved I will,” Fernandes said on his Twitter account recently. “It’s a great club and we fans have suffered too long. Discussions have taken place. Long way to go but a good frank start.”
He later added: “All Hammers fans told you as much as I can. Have to go on radio silence now out of respect to the owners. I know what I need. Let’s see if we can do it. From dark days come lots of positive. Has happened to many (people) many times. Love to all Hammers.”