Saturday, 1 January 2011

New Day, New Year, New Owners

I have woken up in an optimistic mood. It's New Year's Day and we are going to do something as a family. It's the London Parade or the Ducks and Deer in Greenwich Park? Whichever, we will be back home before 3pm so I can, CAFC TV permitting, follow the game in Essex in, er, "near-DAB quality." 

Like you, I have been devouring the takeover news and views since it broke yesterday, trying to make sense of it.

What should be obvious to everyone involved is that we are very unlikely to be any worse off as a club than we were on Thursday. Richard Murray has had other offers and interest in the club which have not been progressed and he is hanging around as part of this deal, not something I think he would have agreed to if he thought there was little substance to it and that he could still be part of a Board that takes the club into Administration or worse. Ditto that for Peter Varney and probably Kavanagh as well.

The flip-side, of course, is that there is no obvious sign of any big money. Jimenez is a "millionaire" but that means very little unless preceded by the word "multi." His money has come from property development in Spain and Dubai, both markets which have tanked in the last four years. Many of his contemporaries are now bankrupt. The timing of his involvement at Newcastle coincides with the property crash in Spain and Dubai, so safe to assume he has been looking for a change in career direction and may have got out early enough to safeguard all or most of his dough. "VP Player Recruitment" at Newcastle didn't last long and he was a front-man for the failed Zabeel deal in 2008. He obviously couldn't afford to buy control in 2008 alone and I suspect his takeover now is more opportunist than financial. He is certainly a bit of a "fixer" and I assume has the charisma and personality necessary to get on with a wide variety of people. 

Michael Slater is a 44 year old lawyer and may be a successful businessman but he's a Man City fan and unlikely to have the personal resources to support the club. I am guessing his professional services have been key in setting up CAFC Holdings and completing the due diligence but he is an odd choice as Chairman, although he holds a similar role in another business, so maybe not. He did come across pretty well on television yesterday.

CAFC Holdings being set-up and registered in Switzerland is a very obvious business move designed specifically with taking the club over. There are tax advantages here and the Swiss financial authorities and government are renowned for their discretion. I would be very surprised if there is any Swiss money involved.

So, it looks to me like we are considering a couple of men who have proved to Murray that they have enough resources at their disposal to keep the club afloat for at least another year, including spending money that wouldn't be available to the club in the short-term. It sounds very much like they haven't paid anything more than a nominal sum for the club but they would have had to convince Murray they could service the debt, if nothing else. If you exclude Director loans which aren't payable until and unless we ever make the PL again (I can hear the argument in the future that we can't afford the PL), that amounts to the mortgage on the Covered End. Interestingly, that was the rumour last weekend in terms of a potential stumbling block/delay.

There is also the argument that CAFC Holdings are fronting bigger money-men, maybe even Dubai-based, in a deal similar to the ill-fated Zabeel move. There is some logic that keeping this secret would ensure expectations don't get out of control and that we don't get ripped off in transfer dealings in the short-term. It would also support Murray, Varney and Kavanagh's continuing involvement both from their personal viewpoints as well as any sleeping partner who might not trust Jimenez and Slater completely with football club management as novices. If there is any truth in this, I am assuming it's not money of the scale of the original Zabeel deal. If it was, the potential investors might be more concerned with the publicity and association than the payment of relatively modest inflated transfer fees. It's likely to turn out to be somewhere in the midst of this lot.

In short, I think we should approach this with cautious optimism. Our activity in the January transfer window should be telling. The lack of any Dennis Wise announcement was welcome but the wording I saw didn't rule him out for good and there will be a concern that he might be involved in the background as an unofficial advisor and that he could be a soft option for Jimenez in the event that Parky fails to get us promoted this season. Parky's own comments on performances and players will also be worth closer scrutiny going forward for any signs of interference from the Board.

I suspect none of this will make any difference to our performance at Colchester today. COYR!

PS - just an observation, but Jimenez looks to me like he might be able to hold his hands up if you know what I mean!

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