China-based chairman Lai has found himself the target of vociferous fan protests surrounding two missing deadlines for the figure taken out in March 2021, among other matters.
Gourlay, addressing the local press, remains firm in his belief the cash will be returned to the club and not repaid via dividends – a reward for shareholders for their investment – as had been otherwise reported.
“I made no secret on the point, my board has too, this money has to come back,” Gourlay said about the fee Lai took out of Albion to one of his other companies, Wisdom Smart Ltd. “You’re right, it has defaulted, the money will come back. It’s not a matter of it, it’s when it will come back.”
Lai missed the initial deadline of September 2021 and it was confirmed on New Year’s Eve that the second deadline, made public by the club last summer, had also passed.
A statement suggested a vague deadline of ‘early in the new year’ – which Gourlay added he could not be any more specific with.
The chief executive added he chases the issue of repayment on a daily basis with Lai and Xu Ke, the WBA Group director and non-executive club director.
“From my point of view there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t ask him for the money to come in,” added Gourlay. “I’m in – not so much daily dialogue directly – but by email or requests by Ken, every day that question comes up. I’m not lying about that; every day. I firmly believe the money will come back one way or the other. Do I know whether it’ll be tomorrow, next week, next month? I don’t. I’d be lying to you and misleading and I don’t want to do that.”
Gourlay said more than once last year he was confident that the loan would be repaid on the December 31 deadline.
The chief executive was asked whether, should the repayment continue to be missed, he would walk away from the club.
Former Chelsea CEO and Manchester United director Gourlay answered: “Good question! I’m not a quitter. I’m not at that stage at the moment.
“I think, in my view, I think and it’d be supported internally by my peers, the club is in better position with me here than me not here.”