As illustrious of a career Tony Adams had at Arsenal, he's had just as odd and curious of a post-playing career.
He never fully embraced the kind of ambassador role many former players take on following their retirement -- something he no doubt could have been very successful at given his accomplishments at Arsenal. He decided to attempt his hand at management, first getting a chance at Wycombe Wanderers before taking over from Harry Redknapp late in 2008, at Portsmouth, for all of 16 matches only to be let go for netting ten total points in those encounters.
He took a year off from working, and then suddenly appeared, of all places, in a small mountain village in Azerbaijan as manager of Gabala FK. In this town of 12,000, at a club that had only been in existence for five years, Adams had dreams of taking Gabala to the Champions League. Many laughed at the time, but Adams knew something many didn't, and that was the man running the club had the resources and vision needed to execute such an endeavor. That man was a then 25 year-old graduate of the London School of Economics whose family controlled half the country's wealth and vast oil resources. That man, Tale Heydarov, had not only visions for Gabala, but saw an opportunity to leverage its oil reserves into business, sporting and other economic opportunities in the way other oil-rich countries such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates had previously done. In Tony Adams, Heydarov now had a famous, successful name in the sport in which he could leverage Gabala's future as legit and meaningful.
It was rumored, at the time, that Heydarov was paying Adams the same as the average salary of an EPL manager, but this wasn't confirmed since Heydarov has maintained refusal to give any interviews to the media regarding Adams' appointment, or anything else regarding his investment with the club, for that matter. However, Adams didn't necessarily pan out on the pitch the way either man envisioned it, and the former Arsenal captain left Gabala before the end of the 2011-12 season, finishing 7th in his first campaign and leaving shortly before the club finished 6th in his second, and final, season. One would think the story and relationship between Tony Adams, Gabala FK, Tale Heydarov, and Azerbaijan would end there. One would be very wrong to do so.
After leaving the club, Adams returned back to Azerbaijan, and Gabala FK, in the fall of 2012, to work with them as a consultant. The nature of his consulting work hasn't fully been disclosed, and it appears today there's reason to believe he's been working more alongside Heydarov for bigger, more grandiose plans than to help Gabala achieve the Champions League dreams the pair once held.
News broke earlier in the day that Adams is linking up with former Chelsea executive Paul Smith to form a consortum to takeover Aston Villa from current owner Randy Lerner. Lerner, after having put the club up for sale last May, won't be considering a buyer until after the league is finished and Villa's status in the EPL, or relegation to the Championship, is decided:
They have approached a number of private equity and other investment firms in recent weeks in an effort to raise approximately £75m in new equity to finance an offer for Aston Villa.
The remainder of the funding for a takeover would probably be in the form of new debt, with a unit of Goldman Sachs understood to have been sounded out about providing the additional capital.
Mr Adams and Mr Smith are said to have formed a new company called Halo which they intend to use as a vehicle to acquire Aston Villa and minority stakes in other leading football clubs.
One City source said on Thursday that Portugal's Sporting Lisbon and Italy's Internazionale were among the other clubs in which Halo was likely to express an interest.
Prior to today, there really hasn't been any mention from Tony Adams wanting to form a group to eventually go into club ownership. So why the interest now? Well, let's start connect a few dots, shall we? How about we start with Tale Heydarov.
In addition to FK Gabala, Heydarov founded The European Azerbaijan Society ("TEAS") in 2004, while studying in London, as a way to strengthen Azerbaijan's business and political interests with the rest of the European community. Through TEAS, Heydarov has managed to boost domestic education initiatives whild funding international research within its borders. TEAS also helped Azerbaijan land Eurovision in 2012, helped get Baku -- Azerbaijan's capital -- in the running for the 2020 Summer Olympic games, and secured the first-ever European Games which will be held later this summer. He's also rumored to have help the country land the Baku European Grand Prix starting 2016, as well as assisting in securing shirt sponsorship rights with La Liga club Atletico Madrid and Serie A's Lazio -- the latter efforts continues his aim to link success in the sport with his home country.
All of that is to get to the fun stuff linking Adams, Heydarov, Aston Villa, and today's rumor.
Earlier this year, the Birmingham Mail spoke with former Aston Villa star and current broadcaster Andy Gray regarding the state of the club, and he dropped a tasty little nugget in the form of a rumor involving a bid for the club from a group based in Azerbaijan. In the article, Gray mentions the group's name rumored to be involved in the takeover -- Gilan Holding. Gilan Holding, it turns out, just so happens to be owned by an Azerbaijani politican (and accomplished musician!) named Kamaladdin Heydarov, whose son just so happens to be Tale Heydarov. Gilan Holding has stake in 235 businesses and interests, one of them being FK Gabala, whose current consultant just so happens to be Tony Adams.
With those links established, I think a couple questions can and should be asked. In the above passage, Adams and Smith are rumored to be searching out half of the £150 million in the form of private investment with the other half being financed. But are Adams and Smith, through Halo, truly, actively searching for private investors, or do they already have their investor in the form of Gilan Holding and the Heydarov's secured? Was Tony Adams sincere in his consulting work to further Gabala FK's Champions League ambitions, or was his return back to Azerbaijan in 2012 to be a public face for plans extending far past the Azerbaijan Premier League?
This will certainly play out over the next few weeks and months, but it's fair to say more transparency surrounding Adams' current position with Gabala FK, how he played into the previous Aston Villa takeover links involving Gilan Holding, and his current role as one of the names and faces in the current takeover rumor is and will be needed.