Oyston in dock over ‘jackpot’ cash pay-out claims

Owen Oyston at court in London
Owen Oyston at court in London
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Owen Oyston was accused of wanting a multi-million-pound payout after the club “struck the jackpot” and won promotion to the Premier League.

The jackpot allegation was made at London’s High Court by a QC representing club president Valeri Belokon, who is accusing the Oyston family of improperly extracting millions of pounds following Blackpool FC’s promotion in 2010.

Owen Oyston with Pool fan Ray Gregson and a member of his legal team outside High Court on Wednesday

Owen Oyston with Pool fan Ray Gregson and a member of his legal team outside High Court on Wednesday

But Mr Oyston told a judge that he was the victim of a “set-up” and Mr Belokon had engineered the current legal battle after the pair fell out.

Mr Oyston and his son, Karl, who is club chairman, are accused of alienating fans by using the club as their “personal cash machine”.

Mr Oyston was cross-examined about an £11m payment made to his service company Zabaxe Ltd in 2012.

Andrew Green QC, appearing for Mr Belokon, suggested: “The reality is you wanted a multi-million payment out of Blackpool FC now that the Premier League jackpot had been struck, and the BFC board was going to give it to you.”

Mr Oyston said: “That is not so.”

He told Mr Justice Marcus Smith that Zabaxe had provided services to the club free of charge over the years, including accountants, solicitors, architects, secretaries and other staff through the Oyston group of companies.

Mr Belokon, acting through his company VB Football Assets, a minor shareholder in the club, is seeking a ruling that the Oystons are guilty of “unfair prejudice” against shareholders.

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 the Latvian millionaire’s 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 £24.15m”, said Mr Oyston.

“The whole purpose was not to co-operate, but try to establish evidence to help him in a court case”.

It was clear from emails that Mr Belokon had no intention of coming to board meetings, but there was evidence of meetings with the media, Oyston claimed.

Mr Oyston said: “It was a set-up. They were setting up for this legal case which is why I am now here today.”

Blackpool was relegated at the end of the 2010/11 season from the Premier League to the Championship and ended up in League Two, the fourth and bottom league of English professional football.

Earlier in the hearing, Mr Green said that during its decline, more than £29m was paid out of the club to Blackpool FC (Properties) Ltd, a company with family links formerly known as Segesta, and in 2012 an £11m “directors’ emolument” was paid to Zabaxe Ltd.