Thursday, 13 November 2014

Wasps - Ricoh Stadium - "Coventry or Die"

Difficult to know where to start, but suppose it best to pin my colours to the mast. I will not support the move to the Ricoh Stadium simply because I think it is wrong in principle to move any sports Clubs from the historical base and heartland. In the case of Wasps this move has been presented and justified as a "do or die" or "Coventry or Die" scenario and as being the only option. Well on both counts this simply is not the case.

Looking back, when did the troubles begin? The first stage was the refusal of Wycombe Council to grant the " Booker" project permission to proceed. Steve Hayes was angered by this and having invested and supported Wasps heavily over several years with this project as a long term objective all bets were now off. Steve introduced more cuts backs with the operation of Wasps and at the same time sought another buyer, he wanted out. 

Another buyer was found in the Barnet FC owner, name escapes me, however for whatever reason he dropped out just before completion, again around, February 2012. This further angered Steve Hayes and the cut backs increased to the point of Steve all but ceasing funding Wasps any longer. The process of running the Club based on revenue received had effectively begun. This led to issues with cash flow, payment of creditors and finally wage bills. The only cash potential Wasps had was via the P Shares which were viewed as the "Crown Jewels". Currently worth some 5m.

In April 2012 a meeting was held, organised by Ivor Montlake and Chaired by Mark Rigby. It was not a formal minuted company based meeting, it involved highly qualified individuals from various professions brought together under an umbrella of commonality which was Wasps. Mostly members of the Wasps FC from the past and present also some past players who were now heavily involved in business in the city of London. I was also in attendance, no others from the RFC were present.

Also attending this meeting were representatives of 2 multi national, worldwide based companies who had previously registered interest and started offer transactions with Steve Hayes before the Barnet FC was  chosen as the preferred bidder. Wasps had no money, no assets apart from P shares but did have a positive brand name. The aim to build a stadium within the region was the main attraction to these investors.

The meeting focussed on how to pay the forthcoming May 2012 wage bill. This was resolved short term, however looking longer term it was made clear by all it would take some 5 months to search and locate further investment interest from the City and indeed for those investors present to reignite their businesses to formulate another offer. I should say at this point that those potential investors that were present knew full well about the state of the Wasps financial position as they had already undergone the early stages of the due diligence process. Equally the likely costs to fund Wasps over a period of 5, 6 years to find a site and build a stadium were well know and not regarded at this stage as a negative. The Wasps brand name was still very strong and desired.

The other issue needing resolution was taking over ownership from Steve Hayes. Many options were discussed and presented to Steve, these eventually resulted in a club announcement that a Consortium headed up by Ken Moss, who was also present at the meeting, were to take over ownership of Wasps. This however was mostly smoke and mirrors to enable funds from outside the club to be provided on a loan basis in order to pay wage bills, with the "Crown Jewels" as a last resort fall back option. It was indeed seat of the pants time.

Now from this point onwards, April 2012, events become very unclear. All I do know is that further investors were being sought and I have to assume this led to the current position. The cash flow from May to September, the 5 month period, was limited but did cover immediate costs. David Thorne appeared on the scene in August 2012 as CEO/Owner (all very unclear) and then in November 2012 another significant event occurred. Nick Eastwood, who had been runner up for the England CEO role, arrived. A man of huge ability and experience taking on a role of CEO at Wasps, which was to all intent and purpose still a basket case. Why ? Had Wasps finally cracked it and had Nick been brought in to sort the club and take the stadium project forward ?

Well admittedly it is assumption, but I think we can today see the answer. During this 5 month period from May to Sept 2012 I presume Derek Richardson was also unearthed being a colleague of David Thorne and options regarding the Ricoh Stadium were presented to the Wasps board, which at that time effectively would be Ivor Montlake and Mark Rigby. The DR/DT option was chosen, the initial action being to recruit a CEO, Nick Eastwood, in order to deliver the project. 

Now the ins and outs of all this activity is unclear, however the Club also reported others investors were in tow as early as Feb 2012. They also stated that a move out of region would not be considered. To me any plan that countenanced a move out of region was not an option. Other options regarding stadiums within region would have been difficult, painstaking, long winded, costly and has to be said could potentially be unfulfilled. However I do believe other options were on the table from May 2012 but the Ricoh offered a quick fix. That does not mean the option chosen was not the best or not better. Only time will tell us the answer that question.

But for me when people justifiy this action as it was " Coventry or Die" or " It was the only option" I simply do not believe that was the case. So was Nick lying ? No, because when he took over it was the only option, it had already been decided by the Wasps board which way to proceed. That's why he was attracted and he was brought in. I watched the video of the Fans Forum and noted with interest how Nick started to distance himself from the "Coventry or Die" strap line, crediting it, if that's the correct phrase, to one of the supporters. I think he knows it was not the case.

However, the deal is now done the initial project completed. I do sincerely hope it does well. I, as I have said already, I cannot support it on principle and indeed as things progress there certain aspects I find very distasteful and to my mind not in line with rugby values which I most cherish. I feel particularly aggrieved that the RFU/PRL have sanctioned/approved this move and hope that Wasps have not taken on too much of a challenge or too much debt.

Was this the best deal for Wasps? Only time will tell. Were there other options ? Most certainly. Why was this option chosen? Again how can we assess this process with so little information. In the fans forum video, some 1hr 40mins, I think only two questions were asked about the business structure.

With regard to the financial set up of Wasps we simply do not know any or hardly any of the details. What we do know is Wasps RFC are the trading company,  have bought the leasehold, most likely pay rent to CCC on the freehold, own 50% or 100% of ACL the operating company. Wasps are 100% owned by Canmango Ltd a holding Company registered in London, largest shareholder David Thorne. Canmango Ltd are 100% owned by Moonstone Ltd who shares are 100% owned by MGI Fiduciary Services in which Derek Richardson is the primary shareholder. Both Moonstone Ltd and MGI are Malta registered companies, so quite difficult to establish details.The funding for the purchase will have come down from these Companies and will be presented as loans in the Wasps accounts.

No comments:

Post a Comment