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New West Brom owner Shilen Patel opens up about his 'dream' purchase

Shilen Patel claims completing his Albion takeover has fulfilled a dream after revealing details of the near six-month process to buy-out Guochuan Lai.

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Patel became the Baggies new chairman on Wednesday after the purchase of Lai’s majority shareholding by his Bilkul Football group was formally approved.

The 43-year-old Florida-based entrepreneur wasted little time outlining his ambition to take Albion to the Premier League, though he also stressed the need to run the club as a “responsible and sustainable operation” while also promising greater transparency with supporters.

Patel, who has owned a minority stake in Italian club Bologna since 2014 and is an investor in more than 30 companies worldwide, had a long-standing aspiration to be involved in sport and revealed he first became aware of the chance to buy the Baggies last September.

He made his first offer a few weeks later and then visited the club in October, with negotiations having continued until an agreement was reached earlier this month.

“It’s been a long journey from there to here,” said Patel.

"I’ve been working to anticipate everything and prepare for everything that goes into owning a club like this. I’ve spent the last couple of months going through an extensive process.

"I think everyone involved wanted to make sure that this was the right thing to do. I’m glad to be on the other end of that and I’m glad to be here."

Though the total cost of Patel’s takeover is thought to be around £60million, the majority of that figure is to pay off debts believed to be as high as £40m.

The biggest creditor is MSD Holdings, the US investment firm which has loaned the club £28m since the start of last year.

It is understood MSD played a key role in the takeover process and Patel admitted establishing a relationship with the company, which identified him as its preferred bidder, had been key to his chances of acquiring the club.

The loan will be “rolled over” into his ownership with Patel adding: “We have established terms for continuity and the ability to pay the loan down at the right time.

"So, we will be proceeding with the loan in place initially and we’ll be in a constant process with MSD to figure out the right way to move forward."

Patel’s takeover has staved off the very real threat of a financial crisis at The Hawthorns due to Lai’s inability to fund the club.

Yet while making no secret of his ambitions, the new chairman warned the club cannot just “buy its way” back into the Premier League.

The need for Albion, now in their third season back in the Championship to remain within the profit and sustainability, is likely to limit any major summer spending.

Patel explained: "I think that when you’re a club that’s in the situation that Albion is in now, without the parachute money, the rules simply do not allow you to buy your way back to the Premier League. You have to earn it.

"We have to find a way to run with discipline and stay on the right side of the rules that exist now and the rules that are probably coming in the future.

"I think to be a responsible and sustainable operation is crucial. The club is going to have what it needs to operate within the boundaries of the league.

"We’re absolutely going to have to increase our expertise in getting the most out of everything in front of us."

Patel, who attended The Hawthorns for the first time earlier this month, is expected to be a regular presence around the club, though he will not be at Friday's match with Coventry due to a prior commitment.

"I think it’s important to understand the uniqueness of football. I want to be very involved, especially early on,” he explained.

"There’s a lot that I want to learn and need to learn about the context of the club including everything that is happening today, where the strengths are and where the opportunities might be.

"Ultimately, my goal is to have a trusted team that is living and breathing the business of the team every day.

"My goal is to be here as often as I can, especially early on. There’s a lot I need to learn about the club and the context of the club.

"Experiencing the matches, which is the coming together of so much of what the Albion community means, is going to be something which is very important to me."

Asked about his emotions on the deal finally being complete, Patel said: "I haven’t allowed myself to get excited about the process through this whole time because I think everything is always so tenuous and you just don’t know what’s going to happen when you wake up the next day in terms of what news is coming out or how things have changed.

"I have been extremely guarded for about three or four months and I think to be here feels like an incredible relief.

"I can finally permit myself to be a little bit excited about the opportunity. I’ve wanted to be thrilled for a long time, but it was not something I allowed for myself until things were official.

"Now, I’m delighted. I’m over the moon and I can’t wait for what happens next."