English cricket chiefs have broken off negotiations with Allen Stanford after the Texan tycoon was charged by U.S. regulators over an alleged multibillion dollar fraud.
A statement on the official Web site of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) www.ecb-co.uk confirmed that joint talks with the West Indies Cricket Board over a “new sponsorship deal” had been called off. Stanford backed a much-criticized $20 million winner takes all Twenty20 match between his all-star team and England in Antigua last November. The lucrative series is due to continue for five years and the ECB had been in negotiations with Stanford over an annual tournament at Lord’s starting next year and an English Premier League, all using the Twenty20 format. Stanford also has links with other sports, most notably golf, where he is the title sponsor of the Stanford St. Jude Championship in Memphis in June. The 58-year-old billionaire is also set to back an LPGA tournament in Houston at the end of the year and is involved in tennis and sailing events. But it is his high-profile connection with cricket which has made the headlines, landing a helicopter on the home of cricket Lord’s before clinching a deal to bring the England team to the Caribbean for the richest one-off in the history of the sport. His all-stars team, comprised in the main of established West Indian Test players, thrashed England to become instant dollar millionaires in the “Stanford Super Series”. But the week-long tournament attracted negative headlines as Stanford was pictured, some said inappropriately, with the wives of the England team while their partners were on the field. Already under pressure over England’s involvement, ECB chairman Giles Clarke faced calls for his resignation on Wednesday as the full extent of the fraud charges became clear. Conservative peer Lord Marland, who recently aborted a challenge to Clarke for his position, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “In most other businesses some people would resign if they had been involved in such a fiasco as this.” Clarke told the Independent newspaper “I will not be resigning,” but admitted the business relationship with Stanford was with hindsight a mistake. “We had the best of intentions, so yes,” he added. The implications for the cash-strapped West Indies cricket board, already under fire for their handling of the abandoned second Test against England in Antigua, could be more severe. In its draft strategic plan, published on its official Web site www.windiescricket.com, the board admits to “lack of financial stability, chronic cashflow problems and low reserves.” Stanford had promised to invest up to $100 million over the next four years, much to grassroots schemes in the various Caribbean nations. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has accused the chairman of Stanford Financial Group in an $8 billion fraudulent investment scheme.
The SEC raided the Houston offices of Allen Stanford and froze the assets of three companies he controls on Tuesday. Stanford Financial Group could not immediately be reached for comment.