'˜Buy out Belokon to end this battle, Owen'
Blackpool FC majority shareholder Owen Oyston must be forced to buy out club president Valeri Belokon to end a bitter legal dispute, a QC has told a judge.
The Oyston family has been locked in a High Court battle with Latvian millionaire Mr Belokon, who claims the family “improperly” extracted millions of pounds from the club when it enjoyed a cash “jackpot” after winning promotion to the Premier League in 2010.
Andrew Green QC, appearing for Mr Belokon, said he had suggested when the legal battle began some four weeks ago that “from the moment the cherries had lined upon on the Premiership fruit machine”, the Oystons had treated the club as “their own personal cash machine”.
Mr Green told Mr Justice Marcus Smith, sitting in London, that over the last few weeks in court the full extent of the Oystons’ misconduct in their dealings with the club and Mr Belokon “has come into sharp focus and makes a pretty ugly picture”.
It was “simply incontrovertible” that Mr Belokon had suffered unfair prejudice at the hands of the Oystons and their companies.
Mr Green argued the appropriate remedy “should be nothing other” than the Oystons and Oyston-controlled Blackpool Football Club (Properties) Ltd, formerly known as Segesta Ltd, buying out Mr Belokon’s interests.
Mr Green suggested that the result of the court making a multimillion-pound buyout award might be that Owen Oyston, and his son Karl, who is club chairman, would not have funds immediately available to repay the loans taken from the club following receipt of Premiership money.
In any event there was no realistic prospect of those loans being repaid to the club while it remained under Oyston control.
If a court order led to the football business having to be sold to a new owner to raise funds for the buyout, that was likely to be popular with supporters currently boycotting Blackpool because of the Oystons, said Mr Green.
During the trial Mr Oyston has denied personally exploiting the club funds.
Mr Oyston told the court that Mr Belokon, who purchased a 20 per cent shareholding in 2006, made a decision in 2011 to “exit the club and prepare for legal action” after his earlier bid to acquire a 50 per cent share failed, and nothing came of attempts to approve other financial arrangements.
Mr Belokon proposed in 2013 that the board should “buy him out for an exorbitant £24.15 million”, said Mr Oyston.