I would like to update everyone on the potential takeover but unfortunately confidentiality clauses prevent me from doing so. However, I can confirm that discussions are ongoing with several parties and I am hopeful that completion will happen this week.
Obviously, the delay is very disappointing but to be honest l am not surprised as it seems a regular event with takeovers these days. I am sure that you have all heard of similar situations for example at Newcastle where at least two potential takeovers with two different highly respected individuals involved have not been able to complete a deal so far.
Similar situations have occurred at Hull and Charlton and several other clubs. I would like to be able to give you more information as to why the transaction was delayed, but unfortunately, as l am sure you will appreciate, I am restricted by NDA and confidentiality clauses. It is important however to appreciate that these transactions take time as was clearly seen with the recent Wigan takeover.
A great deal has and no doubt and will continue to be written and said about my ownership and time at the club, so I thought it would be a good time to look back and also clarify some of the misapprehensions.
When l was first asked to assist, the club was on the brink of going into administration or even worse liquidation and my involvement was to be short term to try to arrange some investment or short term bridging finance.
Prior to my involvement, to the best of my knowledge and belief, Trevor Birch had already sold off the training ground at Euxton to Wigan Athletic, the North Stand offices and several of the car parks to Michael James (Prescott Business Parks) for circa £12m. At the same time, a charge over the hotel was also given to Michael James Holdings together with a first charge over part of the training ground to Brett Warburton creating nearly £9m of new secured debt. Unfortunately, all these funds totalling circa £21m had been utilised before my involvement.
Dean Holdsworth and his associate Michael Collins had taken out a £5m loan from BluMarble through Sportshield with debentures and also gave charges effectively over everything the club and its associated businesses still owned. Although it has to be said that the club only actually received £4m of the £5m. Subsequent events and what happened to both of them and the loan have already been well publicised.
It was the legacy of the above debts and loans, as well as some non-commercial and dubious agreements with numerous agents, suppliers, caterers, professionals and other contractors as well as a rates burden of at least treble what it should have been, based on what the other local football clubs and hotels have paid and which did not make any commercial sense.
I accept that the council is not responsible for the legislation and have been very supportive, but all of this has effectively financially hampered the club during the entire time l have been involved. The amounts involved have cost the club several millions of pounds to date.
During my ownership we have done our best to substantially reduce costs and increase revenues and now have one of the lowest debts and operating costs in the Championship. When you consider that the debts when I first arrived were close to a quarter of a billion pounds it just goes to show how much has been achieved. Indeed, I am pleased to say that the 2018 accounts will show a small profit, which I understand is the first time this has happened since the 2006 accounts were published.
However, despite all of this good work, the club is still not self-sufficient and costs continue to exceed income, which has made operating the club and hotel extremely difficult. Unfortunately, every month continues to be a financial challenge. I fully appreciate how frustrating this is for all the staff at the club and hotel and of course the supporters, but I can assure you that I have done my utmost to try and address the ongoing problem by looking for new investment.
For the record, the sale price being quoted is very wide of the mark. Indeed, the proposals that I have had would effectively recoup what I paid for my shares, so no huge profit as is constantly stated in the media and social media.
Whilst, l am the first to admit that the way l have had to operate the club and its associated businesses is far from perfect and open to criticism, l do believe that there was little or no alternative if the club was to survive both on and off the field until any new investment could be sourced. I can assure you that it had nothing to do with brinksmanship, it was simply to help the club to survive.
Despite all of the above, I am proud of what has been achieved during the last three years, be it the excellent training facilities with the new dome that was achieved with the help and support of the Community Trust and Development Association, the Academy achieving Category 2 status, and the club earning promotion from League One at the first attempt during an embargo that was also a legacy of the last regime.
It is also a great achievement that we have been able to attract the Rugby League semi-finals for a second year running and also been selected as one of the venues for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup as well as hosting music concerts, numerous conferences and many other events including the IberCup to the Stadium and Hotel.
I am also proud to say that there were not the redundancies and mass staff walkouts that the usual doom and gloom mongers predicted. Actually, very few people have left during my ownership.
It has been well publicised about my ongoing battles with some of the media, social media forums and pundits, but I have no regrets on that front whatsoever. I will always defend the people around me when they are unfairly criticised and as I have stated previously the actions that I took were simply because a number of the statements made were and continue to be factually incorrect and there were unjustified criticisms of the team management and academy. I have no problems with opinions as that’s what makes football fascinating, but factually incorrect statements about the club or my staff I will not accept.
Unfortunately, several people seem to want to give the indication that they know what’s going on at the club, when in reality they know very little if anything and often incorrectly speculate or worse still, in some cases create stories such as the Turkish buyer and the North West consortium backed by Russian money and the latest one from Bahrain. I have had no contact whatsoever with any of them.
A number of the sensational headline reports in the local media these last few days are exactly that and again wide of the mark and factually incorrect in most cases. I suppose it helps sell newspapers and keeps journalists in the limelight. As regards the letters being printed, I have no problem with these, as I fully understand the sentiments being expressed. Even if some of the comments are not accurate, I put this down to them expressing what they have read or heard.
Indeed, I do believe that the media and social media have played a major part in influencing and promoting the recent fan protests, which together with the recent vile, abusive and threatening comments posted on social media towards me and my family and then in January, the police advising me that it might not be safe for us to attend home or away matches have made me reappraise whether for the sake of my family and our safety I should continue to be involved with the Club.
Despite all of this, I have decided to reinstate all media privileges with immediate effect.
I have previously commented on the substantial additional costs the club incurred because of the protests and now I understand that there will be another protest before the Millwall match, which will mean incurring additional policing costs which as everyone knows the club can well do without.
I can now understand why Ed Davies decided to stop financially supporting the businesses back in 2015 after losing circa £200m. I had to put a further £800,000 in to pay the salaries in January as I have done on many other occasions.
Obviously, I am concerned, disappointed and deeply regret that I had to take the decision to delay paying the staff salaries on time last month, which is the first time this has happened during my ownership and apologise unreservedly to all the staff and sincerely thank them for their continued support and patience, but it is difficult to accept putting a further £1m into a club that does not want you there and worse still it is not safe to even go to the club.
Football, unfortunately, is littered with stories of owners losing huge amounts of money and still being vilified by the fan base and you need to look no further than Aston Villa and Sunderland for recent evidence of this, but there are many more. That said, I have decided to continue to financially support the club until someone else comes in and have today told payroll to process the staff salaries and to pay any amounts due to the police and others to ensure that the Millwall fixture and future games go ahead.
Apparently, it has been well debated what the alternatives were if the takeover did not take place and I am told the potential repercussions of this for the club were discussed in detail some weeks ago in a recent radio forum, as well as in the local media and social media, and the overwhelming view was the sooner I go the better, as was made very clear for everyone to see at the West Bromwich Albion game and in recent comments/articles by Neil Bonnar, sports editor at the Bolton News, who certainly made his opinions clear about me going as has Marc Iles, who regularly says ‘Enough is enough’.
Despite all of this, I have been working tirelessly alongside Paul Aldridge to try and find new investors and unfortunately have had to tolerate a great deal of tyre kickers and time wasters along the way, but our efforts have never and will not waver until the sale is completed.
I sincerely hope that all of these people along with the Supporters’ Trust, (who for the record have made no contact with the club, as far as I am aware, about helping to pay the salaries) will get behind the new owners by supporting them and giving them the time to settle in and deal with everything and hopefully retain Championship status.