Tuesday 28 April 2020

Moment of truth for Nimer

Martin Samuels this morning warns in the Daily Mail that Charlton Athletic could be the next Bury FC. Samuels is a respected journalist but his article lacks any specifics or real news that suggests he is just speculating in the same way we have all been doing.

What is clear is that the 20th April banking payment cut-off has passed without any screaming so far and the EFL's deadline for initial responses into their investigation for misconduct is also approaching a week old with no obvious bad news. Marian Mihail also told us that he has been informed by the EFL that the ongoing investigation is likely to take weeks, which suggests no immediate sanction or punishment.

On the surface this all appears to offer some encouragement that Nimer may be showing some determination to stay the course. It also suggests, to me at least, that source of funds is not the issue for the EFL and that they have seen something to give hope that proof of funds may be forthcoming. His excuse thus far for not committing investment has been that Southall might try to steal 35% of it. This doesn't really wash if Southall's hands have been removed from the day-to-day operational controls and he is persona non-grata at the club. We should know for certain this week when it will become clear if the club has failed to meet its salary and other monthly commitments. 

If Nimer knows he doesn't really have the money or can't satisfy the EFL, he would know that the game is up and his only chance to salvage anything from the ESI mess would be to sell the club. However, it must be clear to him by now that no-one in their right mind would buy the club from ESI given the prospect of picking up a debt-free bargain post Administration. 

The EFL will also be under intense pressure not to have another Bury on their hands. If Charlton are at serious risk of going out-of-business, they may want to conclude an investigation so that they are in a position to offer up a fuller explanation of what went wrong with the ESI takeover and, more importantly from their perspective, what steps they are going to take to prevent a third club from getting into a similar position as and when Charlton do hit the buffers.

There appears to be some confidence that there are willing buyers (plural) and that Administration, even if it means relegation, would not deter purchase. Indeed, the cost would presumably fall commensurate with League One status and might enable a new owner a stronger prospect of making an immediate impact on the pitch.

The biggest risk that I can see is the wildcard in all this - Roland Duchatelet. Duchatelet might have been sitting contentedly ready to wash his hands of the footballing risk and to take his increased annual rental of £200,000 and presumably some interest on the club debt until the assets purchase was completed. Collapse of ESI and Administration would be a massive red flag for him though. Pursuing ESI through the courts wouldn't be quick, cheap or sure and he would almost certainly face the loss of the Charlton debt that has been accrued under his ownership. He would still have the Valley and Sparrows Lane assets but presumably he would want a far tighter commercial deal from any new owner before agreeing to allow continued use of his facilities, be that an outright purchase or another option deal based on settlement over a term. It seems safe to assume Duchatelet would have little option but to recognise new ownership given he would be very unlikely to get any support from the planning authorities to do anything with the land in the short-term, particularly if Charlton Athletic remain a going concern.

The big fear in all this is that Duchatelet continues to be intransigent in terms of the value he ascribes to the Valley. If he doesn't get real on values - and £50m or any figure near this isn't realistic - there will be a significant timing risk that the club would fold before any deal could be done to save us from the Administrator. We might then be in "AFC Charlton AFC" territory but that could see us starting the club from scratch way down the leagues from which we might never return. Assuming Duchatelet has to see sense is dangerous as we all know. He may well see the club folding as his best option given any prolonged absence from the Valley would strengthen his case for re-development, something he would almost certainly win on appeal downstream. 

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Desperate Southall and Nimer cling on.

It was interesting to hear Southall confirm on TalkSport radio yesterday that ESI did actually buy the club for £1 (he sounded so pleased with himself). Given what Duchatelet had said previously about the football club being a loss-making drain on finances, and that he would be prepared to sell the club for a pound that was probably understandable. I can now see the precise moment Matt Southall first eyed Charlton up.

What I really don't get though, is how Duchatelet can have left any cash in the club for Southall and Nimer to misappropriate. If they were acquiring the club for £1 I would have expected them to have to fund the club on an 'as is' basis from Day 1. It would appear there was a chunk of revenue left for day-to-day operational costs that Southall in particular was able to help himself to and to dole out in sweet contracting deals to his mates as part of the carve-up. Given Nimer hasn't put anything in and Southall didn't have a pot to piss in, it seems reasonable to assume they were spending Duchatelet's money intended to run the club for a number of months as part of the 'break even' plan this season. Our current impending Administration is arriving early therefore because of Southall's cash grab.

It was laughable to hear Southall's desperate attempt to get re-engaged by claiming to have wealthy investors ready to step-in, if Nimer will sell the club to them for £1. We can only imagine what sort of low-life conmen Southall has in tow now. Maybe he has offered Bassini a piece of the action having failed to use the club's cash to settle yet another 'consultancy' payment to another member of his gang. Whatever happens in the shakedown that is coming, Charlton supporters cannot accept Southall's engagement in any way at the club in future.

Indeed, I am hoping that the EFL misconduct investigation into Nimer and Southall concludes rapidly and that the consequences are harsh. I am hoping for the involvement of the police but we may have to be content with them being banned from football. The deadline for initial club response is 4pm today and it looks very much like Nimer may now have to acknowledge that he's lost his 65p. "I did everything I could but they are unwilling to let me complete the purchase" or words to that effect.

Nimer did say he is doing everything he can to try and satisfy the EFL but we have been hearing these platitudes since he turned-up and he has clearly failed. If he has the money, proving source of funds should not be difficult. The fact that he's not been able to do it suggests he either doesn't have the sort of money needed or that he can't prove it's his legitimately. Given EFL concerns about dual-ownership that should be a surprise to no-one, even Taynoon Nimer. There is also nothing to stop Nimer from having moved money into the club weeks ago after he had managed to get Southall away from the till. The fact that he hasn't and we are shortly to run out of cash speaks volumes. 

Both Southall and Nimer have presented well and both have been very convincing but when their guard has dropped we have seen what both of them are really like. The classless clip of Southall boasting about getting into someone's knickers because of his car and having bought his wife new tits was as revealing as Nimer's rant that Southall had spent "all the money on Range Rovers and Bitches." Southall actually had the brass-neck to quote Nimer on this yesterday and attempted to put himself above the quote by saying "Range Rovers and an unacceptable term for women..." Low-life.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Charlton on the brink of Administration

The EFL yesterday lost patience with Taynoon Nimer and his ESI ownership of Charlton Athletic. They have announced an intention to investigate the purchase of the club from Roland Duchatelet in a move that threatens the future of the club.

Nimer has clearly failed to convince the EFL of his funds and source of those funds in order to remove the January transfer embargo placed on the club despite promises to do so. The driver for the latest action would appear to be the pending settlement of April's wage bill and running costs. Southall's attempt at settling the natives by telling us that there were funds to keep the club afloat until Christmas were laughable wishful thinking but suspension of league fixtures has cut all revenue streams and accelerated the approach of the iceberg. 

Taynoon could still settle the April bills but you have to wonder if he actually has the money to do this and, equally as likely, whether he is willing to part with any money when he has failed to satisfy the EFL. Without their support his ownership would be short-lived as they can continue to impose embargoes and sanctions against the club and could ultimately kick us out of the league. The bottom-line, of course, is that if Nimer can't prove source of funds, the money he may have access to is likely to be dirty.

So, where does that leave us? The most obvious answer is facing Administration and a process that moves much quicker than the typical takeover and which would therefore imperil the future of the club. With CAFC facing Administration, Nimer would have a very short window to sell the club on to someone else but who would pay him for a club he looks to have acquired control of for nothing and which now looks several million light of where it was when he placed the grasping Matt Southall in control of the bank account and which still faces a realistic playing relegation from the Championship? Nimer has no emotional connection with Charlton and I can't see him doing anything for the good of the future of the club over his own personal desire to make a buck from the whole sorry mess. So, he could well drag his feet and time is not something we can afford with Administration looming. 

Common wisdom suggests that the most likely 'saviour' in the short-term would be Roland Duchatelet. Administration would see the club's debts wiped clean and that would mean Duchatelet finally having to settle the accumulated debt of his disastrous six years of remote ownership - maybe as much as £65m. He would, of course, then be free in time to sell on the Valley and Sparrows Lane but that would likely take a lot of time and planning (cost). It's far from certain he would get the permission he would need to maximise his development potential. The business case for redevelopment at the Valley is known to be contentious for lots of reasons, not least of all access to the site and Sparrows Lane is still very much a green space that is part of a well protected area of sporting fields and recreational areas in south-east London. The return on investment case for the Valley and Sparrows Lane is likely to be far less attractive than many believe and may also involve risk and time that Roland Duchatelet has little interest in. In all likelihood he would still leave the Valley with a hefty loss. 

In summary then, it looks like the best we can hope for may be that Roland steps in to retake control of the club and that he then does what he has patently failed to do since deciding to sell the club - to be realistic about what the club is actually worth and pull his finger out to find a serious buyer. However, that would mean him acknowledging a big financial hit which he has thus far refused to accept. If that happens, the whole ESI shambles may have served a bizarre purpose. In the meantime, the club faces a lot of time-bound challenges and Administration would likely result in the club being docked points and relegated to League One even if there is a white knight finally waiting to rescue the club. 

A wise and learned friend suggested to me over the weekend that we were too big a club to fail. Bury could be allowed to go out of business but not a club with our history and scale. I hope he is right but logic tells you a bigger club will almost inevitably go to the wall at some point and given the current global financial crisis and massive uncertainty about the future, that could well be sooner rather than later.