Is a takeover on the Cards for Woking FC?

WOKING Football Club may be on course to change ownership after a letter of intent was lodged with the club by a local consortium earlier this week.

Speaking on Tuesday, Ockham-based businessman Ashley Read, 34, confirmed via his lawyer that he is the man heading
up a party who are intent on purchasing a controlling stake of shares.

A letter sent to the News & Mail by Wellers Law Group LLP, acting on behalf of Mr Read, outlined the situation as it stands.

It states: “An offer has been made by Mr Ashley Read on behalf of himself and a consortium of investors to purchase a controlling share in Woking Football Club.

“The board of Woking Football Club has been advised of this offer and the negotiations that are taking place.

“Mr Read and his consortium have the finance and business expertise to provide Woking Football Club with the investment necessary to ensure stability and a sustainable financial future which the club urgently requires.”

A multi-business owner, Mr Read explained that the consortium currently includes six other individuals. They have asked not to be named at this stage.

The news of a potential takeover bid follows in the wake of last week’s AGM, when Cards’ Chairman Mike Smith and Treasurer Bill Sutton announced to shareholders that the club had made a loss in excess of £400,000 (to the year ending May 31, 2015).

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Smith confirmed that he had received ‘a similar personal statement of intent’ to that sent to the News & Mail.

He added that the current Board of  Directors are due to meet for their monthly meeting this evening (Thursday) – planned prior to the recent approach – when the matter will sit firmly at the top of the agenda.

“Mr Read asked for it [the letter] to be circulated to board members, which has been done. The matter will be discussed further at our meeting on Thursday,” explained Mr Smith.

The current board comprises six directors: Mr Smith, who runs his own mole catching business in Surrey; former first-team manager and player, Geoff Chapple; and former Woking Mayor, Rosemary Johnson MBE. Also in the boardroom are majority shareholder Peter Jordan; local businessman Kelvin Reay; and Ian Nicholson in his role as elected representative of the Cards Trust supporters’ group – who own a 20 per cent stake.

Cards Trust Chairman Rupert Phillips declined to comment on Tuesday.

BBC radio and TV sports presenter Garry Richardson retired as a director earlier this year – the vacant position is yet to be filled.
Speaking to the News & Mail Mr Read confirmed that it is Mr  Jordan’s 75 per cent controlling stake in the limited company that is subject to discussions. Mr Jordan declined to comment.

Mr Smith reiterated that any discussions regarding a share purchase between Mr Read’s consortium and club officials are merely preliminary. He added that the details regarding any forthcoming formal offer to purchase Mr Jordan’s – or any – shares would require the successful completion of the due diligence process, which is yet to begin.

Mr Read told the News & Mail that he is pushing for talks to advance because of his concern over the club’s finances; views which he held even prior to the large losses stated at the AGM.

A club sponsor via his company M1 Events Ltd, Mr Read has already pumped approximately £30,000 into the club’s

With established players – such as Kevin Betsy, Josh Payne and Joe McNerney – having left the club over the summer, Woking manager Garry Hill and his squad of part-time players have struggled to match the kind of form that took them to a seventh-place finish last season.

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