By Nick Harris
SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year
10 May 2012
One of Blackburn’s co-owners has claimed today that former deputy CEO Paul Hunt was sacked yesterday for cost-cutting reasons.
Sportingintelligence has learned Hunt was sacked late on Tuesday in the wake of the publication by this website (see story) of an emailed letter he wrote to co-owner Anuradha Desai in December. We revealed Hunt’s sacking yesterday morning.
The club only confirmed this morning Hunt had gone, in a one-sentence statement. This came after Sportingintelligence spoke to Venky’s in Pune and asked when the club would confirm Hunt’s departure. “Haven’t we done that yet?” said an official – and a statement was released shortly afterwards.
Subsequently, Mrs Desai’s brother Venkatesh ‘Venky’ Rao, co-owner of the Venky’s conglomerate and of Blackburn, has told The Times of India: “The sacking was not for that [letter] as he had to go and we have to cut down on budgets, so it [the letter] has got nothing to do with it”.
As Sportingintelligence has already made it clear, including to the BBC yesterday, Paul Hunt did not leak the letter to this website.
Venky Rao’s comments to the Times of India were made in a phone call and have been put online in a video report that has, at the time of writing, ceased to work for reasons unknown.
He said he understood that fans were concerned and were protesting. “It’s how they feel and naturally they are going to do that. We need to come out of this situation and the fans have ever right to do what they want.”
On the British press and their criticism of the running of Blackburn, he said: “The press has got it right. If someone loses or wins they will report but we have to come out of this situation. There is nobody to be blamed.”
Rao also insisted that contrary to reports, the club is not for sale and the Rao family intend to keep Rovers as a long-term investment. “It’s our company and there is nothing of that sort [a plan to sell] and these allegations of selling the club are very wrong,” he said.
Rumours abound of a crisis meeting between remaining executives at Ewood Park last night, and that finance director Karen Silk and director of football Simon Hunt are on the verging of quitting. Sportingintelligence has been told this is not the case. “There was a match last night, the FA Youth Cup final second leg against Chelsea,” said an Ewood insider. “There was no crisis meeting as such although of course we all talked about recent events and wonder what’s going to happen next. I don’t expect anyone to resign in the immediate future.”
Vineeth Rao, the owners’ main Indian representative in Blackburn, flew overnight from England to India and was in Venky’s HQ in Pune today awaiting meetings with Desai. It is understood Vineeth Rao did not support the removal of Paul Hunt – for whatever reason that move was made.
Manager Steve Kean appears to be as ‘bombproof’ as ever, sources say, continuing to enjoy the personal backing of the only person who ultimately matters in the Venky’s empire: Mrs Desai.