Balmain will consider approaching British billionaire Marwan Koukash for financial assistance in a bid to continue as an active partner in the Wests Tigers joint venture.
Koukash has reiterated his desire to become an owner of an NRL club and has been linked to Newcastle. However, the governing body is wary of handing over control to private investors given the dramas at the Knights under Nathan Tinkler.
While Koukash, who already owns Super League franchise Salford, prefers to become a sole owner of an NRL club, he has previously told Fairfax Media he would consider a shareholding arrangement.
That could make Balmain a viable option for the former Palestinian refugee given his desire to be involved in elite rugby league in Australia as soon as next season.
Balmain directors will officially be removed from the Wests Tigers board this week and won’t have a say until they are able to settle their debts. It’s believed they will need to find almost $2 million immediately or face becoming a silent partner in the running of the Tigers. Should they not pay their way in the next 18 months, they face the prospect of their partnership being bought out.
Most consider it an insurmountable financial obstacle, particularly while there is uncertainty about Balmain’s planned premises at Rozelle, but Koukash has the means to secure the foundation club’s future.
Although it is understood that Balmain directors have not yet made contact with Koukash, it is an option that will be seriously considered.
“Obviously Balmain is in a position now where we’ll be looking at options around how we can re-participate in the joint venture, however that might be,” said Balmain director Jim Myatt.
This is not the first time Myatt has had to initiate a fighting fund. The Australian Power and Gas founder raised about $6 million for AFL club Richmond Tigers, mainly through supporter pledges.
Balmain will launch a fighting fund at a gala event celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 1989 grand final at their Five Dock premises, but finding a generous benefactor or buyer remains Balmain’s best shot at survival.
Koukash, whose net worth is estimated at $3 billion, claims he could buy an NRL club at a fraction of the cost it takes to operate the Reds.
“I’m looking at three [NRL] clubs,” Koukash told PA.
"There were two but in the last week or so another opportunity has arisen.
“There are a lot of opportunities for me to get involved with a number of NRL clubs and the amount of investment that is needed is minute compared to what I’m putting in at Salford.”
Koukash, a race horse owner likely to again provide runners for this year’s Melbourne Cup, has indicated he will move to Australia if he purchases an NRL club.
“It has to be the right deal for me personally and for the club over there and it has to have the kind of partnership I would like between the NRL and Salford,” he said.
"There will be sharing of players and coaching ideas and it will make my recruitment in the future a lot easier for Salford.
“For example, one thing I could offer a player considering coming to Salford is a one-year’s development in the NRL and there might be players there who could benefit from coming over here.”
Wests Tigers are at a critical point in their history, with three NRL-appointed directors now holding the balance of power in what has often been a divided boardroom. They have begun interviewing coaching candidates to replace Mick Potter and it is expected a recommendation could be put to the board by the end of the week. Jason Taylor, Anthony Griffin, David Kidwell, Nathan Brown, Matt Parish and John Cartwright are in the mix for the post.
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