x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Joorabchian and Cook: a recipe for trouble at City

Though he had a habit of embarrassing himself in public, Gary Cook's undoing may have been brought about by a once-trusted associate, Kia Joorabchian.

For his part, Nedum Onuoha has continued training with Manchester City during the controversy.
For his part, Nedum Onuoha has continued training with Manchester City during the controversy.

When Garry Cook resigned as chief executive of Manchester City yesterday he had been forced out the exit door by the exposure of a gravely inconsidered email sent a year ago.

Cook, a man who struggled to control his words throughout three-and-half years in the position, was asked to relinquish the role following an internal investigation that underlined his naivety.

Cook's problems had been twofold.

First, he had written an email to City's football administrator Brian Marwood in which he had joked about the cancer suffered by Dr Anthonia Onuoha, the mother and agent of the City defender Nedum Onuoha. Second, having inadvertently forwarded the offensive message to Dr Onuoha, Cook exacerbated the problem by claiming not to have written the email himself and attempting to hide the situation from City's Abu Dhabi owners.

When an English national newspaper published Cook's email at the beginning of this week the club's Abu Dhabi executives initiated an investigation of the matter that confirmed "there is foundation to Dr Onuoha's allegations".

Cook eventually offered his resignation, signing off a statement in which he recognised his "error of judgement in this matter".

That Cook has survived so long in the £1.8 million (Dh10.5m) per annum role was a measure of his utility to Manchester City.

A former Nike executive, his skills as a commercial manager had outweighed a habit of embarrassing himself in public engagements, which resulted in City's efficiently run communications department working hard to keep Cook away from the media.

Abu Dhabi's billion-pound investment in Manchester City has generated huge media attention, encouraged by City's open communications strategy, with the intention of associating the club's ownership with growing success in world football's most keenly followed competition.

Inherited from City's previous owners, Cook's inclination toward grandiose and easily ridiculed public statements might have made him an easy target for replacement. In January 2009, the first full transfer window in which Abu Dhabi's resources could be applied, the chief executive indulged in typical showmanship, accusing AC Milan of "bottling" the proposed transfer of Kaka.

In truth, the Brazil international has simply declined to take up an offer that would have made him the globe's best-paid footballer as he saw a club without Champions League football as a significant step down and expected Real Madrid to bid for his services the following summer. Cook's attempts to play to the gallery did not go down well in Milan.

The attempt to recruit Kaka involved Kia Joorabchian, an unlicensed football agent who was to take a vindictive role in Cook's departure from City. At first trusted by Cook to be central to much of the club's transfer activities, Joorabchian turned into a persona non grata as he attempted to maximise the financial gain from his key client, the striker Carlos Tevez.

By this summer's transfer window, City were concerned that Dr Onuoha had mandated Joorabchian to negotiate her son's exit from the club, but deadline day passed without either a transfer or a loan being agreed.

Senior figures at City hold Joorabchian responsible for those deals falling through. Though the Anglo-Iranian has denied any involvement, they also believe Joorabchian was involved in the leaking of the ugly email that ultimately led to Cook's resignation.