After giving up on the ice hockey team, Anton Zingarevich returned to football and registered two companies in Cyprus - Lucid Football Holding and Lucid Football Capital. They purchased Danish football club Fremad Amaager in 2018, as well as Russian Vista-Gelendzhik and African Cheetah FC and PSports Academy. In 2020 talks were underway for the purchase of French second leaguer Chateauroux, when Reading fans warn the French to "be on the lookout". At the same time, rumors of the purchase of Botev Plovdiv started to appear
There is still no clear answer as to who brought Zingarevich to Botev Plovdiv. At the time of the first rumors, the owner of the club was Georgi Samuilov of Insa Oil. Then, in the summer of 2020, he returned his shares to the fans. At the same time Angel Palyiski (known for his ties to mogul Delyan Peevski's hotel acquisitions) also withdrew from the club. Suspicions circulated that it is people close to Peevski who attracted the Russian investor.
More recently, two separate sources confirm that Alexander Oslan, an old friend of Anton's, is the one who brought him over. Oslan has ties to several arms firms, as well as construction and transportation companies in Bulgaria. It is speculated that Oslan intermediated between PIMK and Zingaervich.
With the purchase of Botev in 2021 Anton sold his shares in Fremad Amager to an American investor. Since then the Danish club has had several ongoing cases with its previous owner in relation to accrued debts, which it is yet to pay off.
In Bulgaria, the local offshoot of Lucid Football Holding owns 99% of PFC Botev.
Cash is trash
One of the first new faces in Botev brought on by Zingarevich was the CEO Daniel Cerejido. According to the Spaniard, the first 3 months were a honeymoon - everyone was energized and seemed set on developing the club. New players were imported from Fremad and the new coach was active.
"He (Anton) was very attentive to every detail. He regularly visited the training sessions," Cerejido says. Good times didn't last, however. "There was no money. I was really shocked, since he came around the whole PR of being a billionaire, but there was no money. The club was being kept afloat by sponsorships from Illian Filipov, Winbet and companies related to Fillipov," Cerejido remembers.
An RFE/RL article from that time claimed that Zingarevich had an implicit agreement with local businesses in regards to monthly expenditures - 66% covered by him and the remaining 34% by them. A deal not unlike the one he struck with the Moscow municipality vis-a-vis Atlant.
According to Cerejido financing from Anton's side had to be done through granting of loans from the Russian's Monaco firm SCP Waterfront. After the sum was received ZIngarevich was supposed to sign a waiver giving up the money.
The system worked. Until it didn't.
"That is when I refused to sign the receipt of the loans (after Anton stopped signing the waivers). I don't know if the club currently is in debt and how big it is, but it was [in debt] when I was there and I know that, during the time of the previous director, it was in "nasty debt" according to his own words, but not sure how much exactly. All letters for loans were signed by the procurist Asen Karaslavov during my time. The club had debts, and maybe still has, not only just towards the owner, but also unpaid debts to past coaches and staff, contracts, football agents, health insurances etc.,"Cerejido comments. "At one point they withdrew the payments and we had months with 1-2 thousand leva available, a money totally insufficient to fulfill the operational needs of the club. The first 5 months there was no money and salaries were paid very late. The situation was absurd," says the Spaniard, who exited the club around the time of Zingarevich's TV interview in April 2022.
"Personally I don't think Anton is a bad guy. He had an idea of how to develop a club from the ground up, but he let himself be influenced and manipulated by the wrong people. He wanted to develop the club and not make the same mistakes as before but he is fooled by people on the local level and it's not like he does not know this, I've told him face to face many times."
Meanwhile on the 28th of February 2022, four days after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, there was a change in the Bulgarian trade register for Lucid Football Holding - Zingarevich's citizenship is no longer Russian, but Israeli with a current address in Dubai.
The Botev Plovdiv black box
According to official documents from 2021 a total sum of BGN 6.024 mln in the form of loans has been transferred to the team's account from SCP Waterfront. In the uploaded contract it shows an interest rate of 3% and a pay-off term of 5 years.
This, along with a loss of BGN 6 mln for 2021, is the last known financial information for Botev. A dark shadow has loomed over the team's finances thereafter. No yearly report has been uploaded to the National Registry since 2012, which is a sanctionable offense.
Money seemed to be at the root cause of the split between Ilian Filipov and Zingarevich. The two were together at the grand opening of the yet-to-be-completed new stadium in April. It was around this time that Filipov would be joining the board of directors.
In just a couple of weeks, however, it all came crashing down. A series of bad results coupled with fan outrage sparked a response from Filipov who urged his Russian friend to give up the club. "We struck a deal, here in my office, that he would take the club with no debt and return it with no debt" states Filipov in an interview in which it becomes clear that he "gifted" BGN 2.5 mln for the maintenance of the club, but received no financial information about the club.
The situation escalated to the state level when fans demanded a meeting with Zingarevich for a clarification on the matter. At this event behind closed doors, it became clear that the loans to the club have reached BGN 10 mln. After the meeting, there was newfound support for the owner and an understanding that this debt would be converted to capital.
The road to Krumovgrad
Many concerns can be raised over the management of the local club. For starters there is no financial information shared to the public and it seems that Zingarevich is unclear what he is doing at its helm. Frequent changes in the team's management underline this. Selling players like the star Todor Nedelev and the strange deal around Tocukwu Nnadi, for whom Dynamo Moscow allegedly paid 2.2 mln euro, are another.
A short while before the unveiling of Botev's new stadium, the team parted ways with its stadium manager Andrey Zhukovin, as well as with its CEO German Chistyakov.
"Chistyakov wanted to leave earlier, because he thought it was unreasonable not to pay staff on time and for other reasons very similar to mine. Despite that he wanted to finish the stadium project, but he had to leave before he could do so," Cerejido reveals. Capital Weekly reached out to German Chistyakov for a comment, but he only said: "I am absolutely uninterested in commenting. I do not want to remind myself of this period in my life or of this person (Anton Zingarevich)", which was a similar comment to the one we received from Illian Filipov.
The current CEO of the club is Alexey Kiryichek, the previous financial director of Lokomotiv Moscow. He seems to be having trouble finding sponsors, as was confirmed by several companies who refused to partner up with the club for different reasons.
At the same time another newly promoted club - the newbie Krumovgrad is prospering off the back of Botev by hiring and using some of its ex managerial personnel, some of its youth players and even its training base in Komatevo.
The cherry on top: the stadium
This tawdry tale would not be complete without mentioning the new stadium in Plovdiv. All the way back, when Zingarevich was still just a rumor, there was speculation that there is no other reason for his interest outside of the massive investment being undertaken by the state and the municipality.
Botev has no ownership rights over the stadium, which it uses for a pitiful rent of BGN 5,500 per month that it pays to the state. A change might be coming, however, as the club is already insisting it has made investments of around BGN 1.5 mln for completion of the stadium. Concurrently, there is no active contract between the municipality and the club regulating how and under which circumstances the club can make investments and what can be expected as a result of them. One crucial aspect of the stadium is its stores and trade sector, which is yet to open, causing yet another financial hit for the club. For now, only about 2,000 club cards for home games have been sold - a number way below what was envisioned and one which is unlikely to increase with the current state of the club.
For over a year Capital Weekly has been reaching out to Anton Zingarevich, trying to get answers to the questions surrounding the club. We even sent a list of questions to Botev Plovdiv, who promised answers within an agreed time frame. As of yet, we have received none.