Blackpool Football Club owner Owen Oyston must wait to hear whether he has succeeded in his High Court bid to have a legal freezing order against his 40 companies discharged.
After a day-long hearing in London during which Oyston was branded “vindictive,” “nasty” and someone who was now “hell bent on making life as bloody as possible for his wife”, judge Justice Marcus Smith reserved his decision on this aspect of the case.
The court heard Oyston was getting divorced from his wife Vicki – with her interests in their home Claughton Hall protected against any enforcement against Owen’s assets, which could complicate the sales.
Oyston’s barrister Andrew Collings QC argued that the freezing order was no longer necessary and there was no risk of Mr Oyston’s assets disappearing.
He told the judge: “Mr Oyston has been in business in that part of the world for a considerable time which is why he has built up a substantial property portfolio.
“There’s no suggestion of off-shore havens or less transparent havens.
“All his business, all his assets are here. There’s not been any suggestion of trying to transfer ownership or encumber them and no evidence of dishonesty.”
Mr Collings submitted there should be a limit to how long the order stayed in place and said it was causing collateral difficulties for his businesses.
For example, one bank had closed all his accounts; a financial institution involved with Oyston Lettings Ltd had withdrawn its support; and a potential lender had withdrawn from issuing a £27m loan, he told the judge.
He revealed that the value of charged assets had been estimated by Valeri Belokon’s legal team to have a sale price of £23m – which Mr Oyston did not accept as an accurate valuation - and that was at a 50 per cent discount if it was a forced, or fire, sale.
Plus, he revealed that £606,782 had been realised from third party debt orders. Those sums nearly came to £24m.
“Mr Oyston says these assets are more and substantially exceed the judgement debt of £24m. His schedule puts it at £144m,” said the QC.
“If there’s a property crisis in Lancashire and all these properties are further halved I’m afraid there’s going to be a shortfall and the freezing order will not make any difference. They have charging orders over all of his properties,” he added.
But, objecting to Mr Oyston’s application, the barrister for Valeri Belokon - who is still waiting to be paid his £24million - described the Blackpool FC owner as “vindictive”, “nasty”, and someone who was now “hell bent on making life as bloody as possible for his wife also”.
Andrew Green QC said the freezing order should not be lifted. He said that in the seven months since the order was made there was no evidence that Mr Oyston intended voluntarily to pay what he owed.
“He is fighting in the trenches to hold on to every possible penny of his money and he is fighting pretty dirty and he has absolutely no intention to voluntarily pay this debt just as he appears to have no intention of playing fair with his wife in their divorce proceedings,” he said.
In his latest statement, Mr Oyston referred to the bailiffs’ failed execution earlier this year to seize three cars and a Lowry painting at his apartment.
The court heard today that the Lowry was safely locked in a safe.
“Mr Oyston says, falsely, that Clifford Chance [Mr Belokon’s solicitors] knew the items were not at that location and also says, falsely, that Clifford Chance had tipped off the press,” Andrew Green QC added.
“He refers to this conduct of bailiff and Clifford Chance as criminal conduct and to the fact he is now bringing civil proceedings against those.
“He has sent draft proceedings to the bailiff claiming £50,000 against the bailiff and has joined not only Clifford Chance but also James Cranston, an associate of Clifford Chance.
“To join Clifford Chance is in itself clearly an attempt to make these important proceedings as uncomfortable and as personal and as nasty as possible but to join Mr Cranston is downright vindictive.”
Mr Green submitted that Mr Oyston’s desire was to make life difficult for anyone who had a legitimate claim on his money, including his wife Vicki.
“Her barrister today said in the matrimonial action he has not been providing disclosure so it appears he is now hell bent on making life as bloody as possible for his wife also,” he said.
Mr Green continued: “So this is not a man who has any intention of voluntarily paying his debt to Mr Belokon.
“He is, on the contrary, going to fight him in every possible way he can not to pay and undermine the regime.”
He added: “Over the last seven months not a single substantial asset has been sold.
“The freezing regime was necessary – we have had seven months of false promises.”
The QC claimed that Mr Oyston was “actually subverting the execution process” by not allowing the charged assets to be sold to pay the debt.
He also argued that the value of the assets were “diminished” by the impending divorce as they might not be available.
Mr Green stated: “Mr Oyston could have the injunction discharged by paying the debt from his staggering wealth. It’s no longer an answer for him to say ‘Yes I am rich but need time to sell my assets’. He has had seven months.”
In reply, Mr Collings said it was “quite outrageous” to suggest that Mr Oyston was not playing fair with his wife and it was not “fighting dirty” to successfully obtain an injunction in the Queens Bench Division for criminal conduct on behalf of the bailiffs.
Mr Oyston claimed they acted unlawfully in how they entered his property.
The barrister added: “It’s not a question of whether you like Mr Oyston.”
This morning, the court heard how a potential new stumbling block has emerged that could hinder the £24m payment Oyston still owes Belokon.
When the case returned to court today the judge, Justice Marcus Smith, was told that Mr Oyston’s wife, Vicki, who is divorcing Oyston, has become involved in the action.
As a result, the judge ruled that Vicki’s interest in her home, Claughton Hall, should be protected during enforcement proceedings against Oyston’s assets.
Owen and Vicki originally divorced in 1982 but remarried in 1988.
Vicki could potentially also have financial or beneficial interests in more of his assets which are the subject of a freezing injunction and legal charging orders to settle his court-imposed debt.
And, to complicate the matter still further, there could also be an issue as to which court has priority in dealing with Mr Oyston’s assets – the matrimonial court or the High Court’s Chancery division.
Mr Oyston owes £24m to Valeri Belokon to buy back his shares in the club after Justice Marcus Smith ruled last year that Mr Oyston had “illegitimately stripped” Blackpool FC of assets after it was promoted to the Premier League in 2010.
It was found that the Oystons had unfairly prejudiced the Latvian, who accused them of “improperly” extracting tens of millions of pounds from the club.
The club was put up for sale four days later.
Oyston claimed on April 26 that the club had reached an agreement with an unnamed investment group but no further details have been revealed.