Troubled Bolton given more time as Laurence Bassini emerges as potential buyer
Bassini had a troubled 13-month tenure at Watford and was subsequently declared bankrupt for a second time.
Bolton have been granted a further stay of execution by the High Court, while controversial former Watford chairman Laurence Bassini has been confirmed as the club’s prospective buyer.
The Sky Bet Championship outfit were back in court on Wednesday facing a winding-up petition over an unpaid tax bill but the case has been adjourned until May 8 to allow the proposed sale of the club to proceed.
This is the sixth time in the last 18 months that Bolton have faced a winding-up order, which could result in administration or liquidation. The latest one was issued in February by HMRC over debts of £1.2million.
Current owner Ken Anderson had refused to name the prospective buyer, but on Wednesday it was revealed to be Bassini.
The club’s barrister Hilary Stonefrost told the court: “The prospective purchaser is here.”
She added that Bassini, whose controversial tenure at Vicarage Road lasted only 13 months, “has proof of funds”.
Bassini declined to comment before he was driven away from the court in a white Rolls-Royce.
The 48-year-old has twice been declared bankrupt and was banned from holding a position of authority at an English Football League club for three years in 2013 for alleged financial misconduct while at Watford.
He told the Telegraph he had been unfairly maligned, saying: “Very shortly, I’m going to be naming and shaming and producing – that has taken me six years – the evidence to show how dishonest people were and how I was made to be a scapegoat.”
Bolton were given two weeks to settle their debts at an initial hearing on March 20, with Anderson claiming a buyer was lined up.
It has been a hugely troubled month for the Championship club, who are five points adrift of safety and facing relegation even without a possible points deduction.
Last month their match against Millwall was in doubt because of safety concerns after staff, including stewards and turnstile operators, were not paid their February wages on time.
That match did go ahead, but on Tuesday it was announced that Bolton will have to play their next two home games behind closed doors after the club’s safety advisory group decided they could not guarantee fans at the University of Bolton Stadium would be safe.
The safety group, which is comprised of representatives of the local council, police and emergency services, informed the EFL on Tuesday that it had placed a prohibition notice on the club under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975.
The notice covers this Saturday’s match against Ipswich and Tuesday’s clash with Middlesbrough.
Anderson secured a stake in the club during an emergency buyout three years ago, alongside former striker Dean Holdsworth, then took majority control in 2017 after Holdsworth’s Sports Shield company went into liquidation.
Bolton’s players have been on a 48-hour strike this week, with wages again not paid on time, drawing criticism from Anderson in a statement on Tuesday.
Regarding the takeover, Anderson said on bwfc.co.uk that completion was “taking longer than anticipated” but added: “The parties involved have assured me and their advisors that they are in a position that will enable completion to take place shortly.”
Anderson welcomed the adjournment on Wednesday and said it would give him time to finalise the sale of the club.
He said in a statement the prospective buyers had “committed to buying the club and clearing all the debts, including the substantial amounts that were there before I got involved with the club and secured on the stadium, hotel and training ground”.
Anderson added that he hoped the matches against Ipswich and Boro would go ahead but claimed that could depend on whether the club’s players returned to training on Thursday.
He said: “In the meantime, everyone at the club is doing everything possible to try to ensure that this weekend’s match against Ipswich Town and next Tuesday’s against Middlesbrough go ahead as normal, but this may now depend on whether the players see sense and stay loyal to the supporters and season ticket holders and return to full training tomorrow.
“For my part, I continue to be positive and think that we still have a good chance of retaining our Championship status and also believe that my decision not to place the club in administration and incur a 12 points deduction was the correct one.”