Belfast Telegraph

Revived Glentoran are on the brink of wiping out their £1.7m debt

 

Glentoran remain in talks with a millionaire, who has links to Iran, over possible investment.
Glentoran remain in talks with a millionaire, who has links to Iran, over possible investment.

By Graham Luney

Glentoran have insisted they are close to securing the club's long term financial future by wiping out debts totalling almost £1.7m.

In 2010, the club faced a winding-up petition by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs over an unpaid tax bill and a wealthy benefactor stepped in to rescue the club. The creditors, however, refused to go away but the Glens now maintain they have taken huge strides forward on the financial front by slashing the debt to just over £100,000 - a 93% reduction.

Glentoran's financial headaches came from three main sources - First Trust sold debt onto a vulture fund called Promontoria, a cover for Cerberus debt management group who demanded immediate repayment, and other creditors looking money were Girona Developments and Home Farm Investments.

How the club has dug their way out of this financial hole is by selling two pieces of land at The Oval, including 1.02 acres to the Belfast Harbour Commissioners. A second and smaller piece of land should be sold in the coming weeks.

The club, meanwhile, remains in discussions with a millionaire who has links to Iran, regarding a cash investment.

Glens chairman Stephen Henderson said: "Today's news is a massive step forward in terms of stabilising the club in the long term. We are now getting into a position where no creditor will be able to have the power to turn our lights out.

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"We will be masters of our own destiny.

"We can't be reckless in our spending but what it also means is we will be able to strengthen the manager's hand and gives confidence to our commercial partners and potential investors that this is a business being run on sound principles.

"We have swallowed a bitter pill and been given a dose of reality. The long term survival and viability of the club was paramount and after making a huge step forward we believe we are very close to that."

It's understood that these transactions mean the Cerberus and Girona Developments debts have been cleared and the money owed to Home Farm Investments has been significantly reduced.

Henderson said: "We have only one creditor to deal and we are now in a much stronger position moving forward.

"The club struggled long and hard to deal with the cash-flow situation and it has been six years since there has been issues surrounding wages being late.

"In the last five years, the club has posted a very modest profit each year. That established confidence with our creditors but, in the middle of last year, it became very clear to us that First Trust sold debt on to a vulture fund called promontoria, a cover for Cerberus debt management group who are involved in bad bank loans across the island of Ireland.

"When they come knocking on your door, they want every single penny.

"The decision was taken by First Trust in Dublin and we heard about the development third hand at a golf club. Cerberus were knocking on our door demanding full repayment and, when we didn't have the funds to do that, they locked the gates of The Oval.

"We had to raid our cash reserves we had built up through good business practice to put a proposal to them to deal with the debt in a suitable timescale.

"We looked at selling off two portions of land at The Oval and we pushed ahead with one of those land deals with the Belfast Harbour Commissioners and that was approved by shareholders at the tailend of 2018.

"That was to sell 1.02 acres and it was land that is not used on matchdays nor did it form part of any new stadium plans. Now the process is underway to clear out the Cerberus debt in its entirety but also to clear out the Girona Developments debt in its entirety and thirdly to put down a significant slice of money to the final remaining creditor which is Home Farm Investments.

"It means the club will have wiped out about 50 per cent of our debt in one go. We have a plan, already approved by shareholders, to sell a second and smaller piece of land and we now expect to complete this second land transaction in the coming weeks. It means that our debts, which once sat at just under £1.7million, will be reduced by 93 per cent in a few weeks' time."

Henderson praised Glentoran's supporters for showing tremendous patience at a time when the club's long-term financial security was uncertain.

"If this was a normal business it would have been shut down years ago but it's not," he added.

"We are supporters and we have invested a lot into it. This board need to pass the club onto the next generation in a better state than it was found. We have had to tell managers no when they wanted to bring in the best players but we want to say yes to Gary Smyth.

"Our fans have been extremely patient and they deserve praise for that. Today's news is a massive step forward in terms of stabilising the club in the long-term."

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