British-backed bid emerges for Blackpool as club’s owners fight for time
With Blackpool’s owners going to court on Monday to beg for more time to find the cash they owe a former investor, a group is ready to buy the club.
An overseas-based British businessman is backing a takeover bid for League One side Blackpool, Press Association Sport understands.
The bid, which is being fronted by the former chairman of another English Football League club, has been in talks with the club’s majority owners, the Oyston family, for several months but is being held up by the ongoing civil war at the club.
The company that owns the club and their assets, including their Bloomfield Road stadium, was put up for sale on November 10, four days after the Oystons lost a high court battle with ex-business partner Valeri Belokon.
A Latvian businessman, Belokon bought a 20 per cent stake for £4.5million in 2006 and served as the club’s president until last August, when he resigned.
By then, however, he had been in dispute with fellow directors Owen Oyston and his son Karl for more than a year over claims they had taken £27million out of the club after their season in the Premier League in 2010/11. Owen Oyston, for example, paid himself a director’s salary of £11million.
After months of wrangling between the parties, Justice Marcus Smith agreed with Belokon and ordered the Oystons to pay him more than £31million, plus costs, for “illegitimate stripping” of the club and “fundamental breaches” of their duties as directors.
The Oystons were ordered to pay this sum in four instalments: £10million in early December, £10million by the end of January, £7.5million by March 31 and £7.1million by May 31.
They met the first of these payments but missed Wednesday’s deadline for the second tranche and must now return to the high court on Monday to hear if their application for an extension will be approved.
Normunds Malnacs, the man the Oystons blocked from taking Belokon’s place on the board last year, told Press Association Sport the Latvian is willing to give them “a week-long extension with certain conditions” but no longer.
One possible solution is the judge will simply hand the club to Belokon, as part-payment, although that is complicated by the fact he failed the English Football League’s owners’ and directors’ test last year after his conviction in Kyrgyzstan for money-laundering and tax evasion.
Belokon denies any wrongdoing and his representatives say the verdict was politically motivated. It is understood his status in English football is also under review.
But the complexity at Blackpool does not finish there, as relations between Owen, 84, and Karl, 49, have completely broken down and they are now acting against each other.
When asked if there is any update on the sale, a club spokesman said there is no change to November’s statement that the “Blackpool Football Club Limited and Blackpool Football Club Properties Limited are on the market”.
In the meantime, the only real bid on the table is from the overseas-based Briton, who wishes to remain anonymous at this point, and his partners.
With many fans boycotting the club in protest against the Oystons, Blackpool is fighting to stay in League One after last year’s promotion.
Despite earning significant revenue from a hotel and other tenant businesses at Bloomfield Road, the club are still losing £2million a year, thanks to the poor gates and lack of sponsors.
The interested party believes the club would break even if attendances return to an average of 10,000 and is proposing to slash season tickets to £200. It would also sell the club’s dilapidated training ground and move to a new council development near the airport, as well as selling some houses at Bloomfield Road.
It is also understood the bid is keen to work with Belokon and would like to involve the Blackpool Supporters Trust.