Thursday 22 November 2018

Sale of Charlton - Amateur Hour

The Fans Forum, that initial Meire creation of a box-ticking exercise to cover off 'fan engagement' met again this week. It appears to have focused on an update on takeover news.

Lead by Lieven De Turck (LDT), the update was in stark contrast to previous history of virtually zero news (Non-Disclosure Agreements) and yet the updates looked like a poor and obvious attempt to make it appear there is far more going on than there actually is.

I don't expect anyone to give us the nitty-gritty and certainly not to reveal the identities of anyone keen to protect their interests given the chances of failure to conclude a deal. However, you have to question the wisdom of an update that astonishingly wants to lend credibility to five ongoing bids none of which appear to have any compelling intention or drive to acquire the club. For example, the "groups linked to the Australians still have to lodge outstanding documents with the EFL to complete the deal." We knew that from the utterances of a clearly frustrated EFL who felt compelled to be seen to do something once they were partially embroiled over assumed paperwork delays in the heat of Summer. That was months ago and LDT informs us that he thinks the ongoing delay is over "their complexity" - that is of their group, not the paperwork. This despite assurances from the man himself that the price was agreed in February. Sorry but that doesn't wash.

Updates on the other parties named as 'second, third, fourth and fifth' and helpfully labelled British or European in several cases, are equally lame. One British group has "always been active" and the others are undergoing due diligence, have signed an NDA or are awaiting to show proof of funds. We were told previously there was a long-standing British consortium so LDT checks that box but they too have been rumoured to be buying the club for an equally implausibly long time as the Aussies and have been ridiculed by others who believe they understand the make-up of the group (remember the Alex McLeish involvement which he closed down quickly after having had a shufty saying that "they want too much money" or words to that effect). I am pretty sure the Aussies can see through all this other interest - it certainly hasn't forced their hand.

You have to reflect on why it's taken so long for RD to sell Charlton Athletic. Far bigger clubs are bought and sold in a fraction of the time and without a hint of the nonsense we have been subjected to. There is very obviously a big sticking point with the Aussies and I suspect with anyone else with any serious intent who has invested money to investigate purchase. Price is the obvious issue and that's what's been raised in many places. If the supporters can do the maths, and they have, using publicly available data, it's disingenuous for RD to continue to try to sell the club for a premium. Only a fool would agree upon a multi-million pound purchase of a football club with significant ongoing running costs as well as further investment in order to make it successful without completing basic due diligence to qualify the risk and, as importantly, the actual value of the club and it's current financial liabilities. 

Therein lies the rub, of course, because that's what the arrogant Roland Duchaletlet did when he casually acquired us and a host of other football clubs four years ago when he was convinced a multi-club ownership could allow him to exploit Financial Fair Play for his own gain. When FFP failed, he managed to get out of Standard Liege relatively unscathed and his other clubs are much smaller so less of a financial risk but his gross failure at Charlton has seen the club relegated, fans driven away and the accompanying loss of revenue has seen debts escalate to approaching £70m. This is heading towards four times his original stake and he is desperate to save face and reduce his losses so he can step away from the mess. 

He has already admitted defeat and confirmed his glaringly obvious lack-of-interest in Charlton Athletic (once "one of his children"). So why then doesn't he simply get real, cut his losses and take it on the chin? He can afford it after all. The answer, I suspect, is his huge ego and his arrogance that he can get what he wants if he's prepared to last it out. I also noted LDT's comments that interest in acquiring the club is on the increase because of the upcoming transfer window and the club sitting sixth in the table. This, for me, is the give-away line in the whole piece. The notion that our league placing will force someone's hand to increase their price substantially is more arrogance, more ignorance and simply wishful thinking. A few games ago we lost a couple on the bounce and dropped to mid-table. If a deal is truly dependent on promotion, why bother with due diligence when we were clearly languishing in League One a year ago and when the shortage of investment and continuing cashing in on anyone saleable is the evident policy. It will simply never happen on that basis.

As for the transfer window - ha, ha, ha, ha-ha! That suggests Roland won't do what he did last year when the Aussies were first identified and a takeover was 'imminent' (haven't heard from Richard Murray since). If you remember, he sold top scorer Ricky Holmes as quickly as he could in his fit of pique over perceived delays in acquisition. He followed that by actually bothering to come to London and storming around the club having lights bulbs removed and making trivial cost-savings which were all a bit of fiddling-whilst-Charlton-burns. Staff have since seen their anticipated bonuses not paid due to the financial failure of the club - another in a factory-line of PR disasters that have characterised Duchatelet's clumsy ownership.

All the latest LDT waffle tells me is that we are still a long way off from any realistic sale. An unlikely promotion could provoke more serious interest but the fundamental problem of price remains and presumably the bar would simply rise in parallel. Before May though, we have to negotiate January without more chips being cashed-in. That Lyle Taylor is attracting a lot of attention and envious glances. 

Thursday 15 November 2018

Today South London, Tomorrow South London

Wanted to give a shout out for the book of the same title by Andrew Grumbridge and Charlton fan, Vincent Raison. My reading is usually confined to holidays and is either biographical or military. However, a Good Samaritan posted a copy of Today South London, Tomorrow South London through my door last week with a post-it note saying this would be right up my street.

It certainly was and I am now re-reading it (unheard of for me). There's not much football content but it's unashamedly all about a Beer and South London drinking establishments which are the two other points of the Charlton diehard's preoccupation.

The book builds on many previous pieces from The Deserter blog and involves the escapades of four great mates who like nothing more than taking time out to roam South London on the lash with the occasional rest to inhale some herbs to help the day along. Obviously I would like to have read more 'sarf-east' tales but South London is a big canvass and it's good to get a broader perspective sometimes.

I particularly like the writing style and the uninhibited use of language which really helps you get to grips with those involved. The book was funded via donations and printed via 'Unbound' who support this self-start model which allows more creative freedom and the book undoubtedly benefits from that.

It helps if you can avoid the temptation to jump from one chapter to another in search of places you are more familiar with because the book is written chronologically and you risk missing cross-references otherwise. I, of course, jumped to 'Thirsty in Kidbrooke' to roar at the observations of Kidbrooke Village to the former Ferrier Estate where I spent several exciting years in the early 80's. I was much amused by reference to an incident of the smoke bomb in the Wat Tyler one lazy weekday afternoon. When the smoke finally cleared and us shirkers returned to our pints, the Landlord declared (in complete disbelief) that the fruit machine had vanished. It was around the back with it's cover prised off and the coin slots gone. My flat-mate and I were drinking in the pub that day!

As we know, in addition to being on the best side of the river, all the world is here. Makes a decent Christmas pressie for a tenner.

Thursday 1 November 2018

"Complete and utter tosh."

That was the reaction of former Palace-supremo Simon Jordan to the 'defence' that Roland Duchatelet attempted to put forward on Talk Sport radio this week for the parlous state of Charlton Athletic FC as we approach the fifth anniversary of his reign.

Simon Jordan is a man despised in these parts for all sorts of reasons, not least because of what has come out of his mouth at times in the past. However, it has to be said, he has called this perfectly. He ridiculed the various excuses that Duchatelet offered-up including the line that prospective buyers have been getting cold feet because of results and supporter protests. He went on to say that due diligence was a critical activity and because Duchatelet hadn't done any when he bought the club, he had failed to understand what the club was all about. The fact that Duchatelet has since been largely absent has compounded the issue and his reliance on the woefully inept Katrine Meire meant he only got her sugar-coated version of her latest cock-up which invariably blamed the customers for complaining about the number of chips per portion. He still thinks she did a wonderful job despite all of the evidence and all of the witnesses to the exact opposite.

Not understanding what he was buying or not wanting to understand was clearly not a concern for the arrogant Belgium who very quickly had Meire telling anyone who wanted to know that "the owner does it his way" and that we would have to lump it. Not carrying out due diligence was also borne of the arrogance of a billionaire who probably saw little point wasting half-a-million on the exercise when he was only paying £18m for the club (inc £4m debt). How we could do with a similar laissez-faire attitude as he seeks to get out, you know, agreeing a price based upon what it's worth or maybe a bit less for a quick sale. Instead we have him looking desperately to save face on the whole sorry fiasco by getting an unrealistically high price that might him sell a story back home about how he didn't lose out on yet another of his long list of business successes.

Jordan also made the astute observation that "everyone around it (the club) seems to be disassociated and disenfranchised." Two superbly picked adjectives that really sum it up for me today.

As for his view that prospective buyers might be driven on price and determination based upon results from week-to-week, you can only wonder at how despondent they must be at the moment as yet another false dawn disappears over the horizon.