Judge to put Oyston assets up for auction today
This is the definitive list of properties and companies that are due to be sent to auction to raise the Â£25m Blackpool Football Club owner Owen Oyston still owes Valeri Belokon.
The latest in the saga between Oyston and the Latvian former club director will be heard in court once again this morning.
At 10.30am today in the Rolls Building in London, Justice Marcus Smith is expected to approve orders for sale and to set a date for the auction.
In total, there are 24 properties and shares in six companies.
Among them is Blackpool Football Club (Properties) Limited, Oyston’s company that owns the majority of shares in the football club, as well as the Bloomfield Road stadium, Squires Gate training ground and the Travelodge hotel.
In an unprecedented situation, this essentially means the ownership of the football club is up for grabs, giving fans hope this will be the final hurdle in removing the Oystons from the club.
In the High Court last November, the Oystons were ordered to buy out Belokon for £31.27m after it was found they had illegitimately stripped the club of cash following promotion to the Premier League in 2010.
Justice Marcus Smith found then that the Oystons had unfairly prejudiced the Latvian, who accused them of “improperly” extracting tens of millions of pounds from the club.
The judge found in his favour and the club was put up for sale four days later.
Christine Seddon, chairman of Blackpool Supporters’ Trust, believes there is light at the end of the tunnel after years of heartache.
“It is now 12 months since the legal action was heard in a London court,” she said.
“We had to wait until November for that staggering verdict, then a further three months passed before Owen Oyston defaulted on payment.
“More court hearings followed and here we are a year on and still waiting for the curtain to fall on the last act of this long-running drama.
“It is understandable that many Blackpool fans are feeling frustrated that, in spite of Mr Belokon’s huge victory in court and the many announcements regarding the club being up for sale, interested investors etc, Owen Oyston still owns the club and the majority of boycotting fans are still unable to purchase a season ticket or plan their return to Bloomfield Road.
“For most of us, the decision to campaign for new owners and boycott our own club was not taken lightly and when we began, there was really no way of knowing how long it would take for change to happen.
“There is no doubt that the legal action taken by Valeri Belokon will bring that change more rapidly than the supporter campaign alone. The hearing this week should start the final part of this legal process which will ultimately result in new owners at Blackpool FC.
“BST have encouraged supporters to stand firm for several seasons and now that the end is in sight, let us maintain our determination to see our campaign through to a
“As the old Chinese proverb says, “the temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.”
“With a new season just a few weeks away, it is concerning that the fate of our club is still undecided but we must remember how bleak the situation has looked at times over the last few years and how much closer we are now to a favourable outcome. There really is light at the end of this tunnel.”
4 Milking Stile Lane, Lancaster
Capricorn Cottage, Claughton, Lancaster
130 Lord Street, Fleetwood
160 Victoria Road West, Cleveleys
1 Queen Square, Blackpool
3 Queen Square, Blackpool
5 Queen Square, Blackpool
7 Queen Square, Blackpool
9 Queen Square, Blackpool
16 The Strand, Blackpool
18 The Strand, Blackpool
20 The Strand, Blackpool
132 Promenade, Blackpool
134 Promenade, Blackpool
136 Promenade, Blackpool
138 Promenade, Blackpool
140 Promenade, Blackpool
Garage, 134 Promenade, Blackpool
10 Edward Street, Blackpool
32 Tewkesbury Drive, Lytham
120 Coronation Road, Blackpool
120A Coronation Road, Blackpool
St Chad’s Church, Lancaster
Quernmore Park Hall, Quernmore Road, Lancaster
Shares in companies
500 ordinary A shares in Closelink Limited
1,604,694 ordinary shares in Blackpool Football Club (Properties) Limited
2 ordinary shares in Denwis Limited
2 ordinary shares in Zabaxe Ltd
744,100 ordinary shares in NatFarm Limited
3,500,002 ordinary shares in Oyston Estates Limited
The Gazette also spoke to Tim Fielding, honorary vice-president of BST, to find out the significance of today’s hearing.
What do you expect to happen during today’s hearing?
“We believe the hearing will be in front of Justice Marcus Smith – I’d certainly be surprised if it was in front of somebody else.
“I think the likelihood is it’ll go straight to auction, subject to reserve pricing, although I suspect the auction itself might not take place until August. But that’s just guesswork.
“All the assets should have been valued independently by someone appointed by Valeri Belokon’s legal team and then Justice Marcus Smith will likely go through the assets one by one, or collectively, to give authority to instigate the auction process.”
Can Oyston still stop the auction from going ahead?
“There is some suggestion that Oyston has indicated a willingness to contest but has not said why.
“It’s difficult to see how he could oppose unless he can demonstrate individual properties are actually in the process of being sold to third parties.
“In that instance, the court might be persuaded to defer some and see if the sales go through. But my gut reaction is the court is likely to be quite sceptical of that given that everything that has come before.
“Oyston as an estate agent has, in theory, had a lot of these properties on the market since November or December time, or he should have done.
“But you get the impression from the last couple of hearings that Justice Marcus Smith has had enough of it all now and just wants the debt paid.
“It’s a fair old while now, a good six or seven months since Oyston has had the opportunity to facilitate the sale of assets and he’s pretty much not sold anything.”
Will Belokon bid for Blackpool Football Club Properties?
“I don’t know whether he will bid.
“We’ve recently learned divorce proceedings are underway with him and his wife and I’d hope that won’t impact on things at all.
“But bearing in mind everything we’ve heard over the last four years or so, you would think he would be bidding. He’s certainly allowed to. If he were he would set that against the debt.
“It’s such an unusual scenario it’s very difficult to draw parallels.
“At the last count there were 24 properties and shares in six companies, which in itself is very unusual.
“Effectively the ownership of Blackpool Football Club is going up for auction.
“Obviously that’s not normally the way it’s done, normally it’s done effectively by an agreement and there’s a handover period. But we’re in a very bizarre situation where a new owner could be parachuted in overnight.”
Are the assets likely to raise £25m?
“The difficulty with auctions is the uncertainty of it all.
“On the football side, if you did get two or three parties bidding on it, then you could see how the price might increase.
“But I’m not convinced on who’s going to bid on it. We know about vSport but I don’t think they are serious. A lot of the other parties have been driven away by the uncertainty and the variations in price.
“Could one or two come back and say it’s worth another look? But whoever it is could be parachuted in overnight which is quite an unusual scenario, because you could literally be handed the keys to the place the following day. In theory anyway.
“Normally at auction you have to do your due diligence up front but after that you end up in a scenario where you have to complete it within a couple of days after the auction.
“You’d also have to get the green light from the EFL, so could it just be a conditional offer? I don’t know.
“Someone was supposed to be buying Charlton Athletic since March and that’s still not happened.”
Is this the last hurdle to removing the Oystons?
“You would think so.
To be honest, I still can’t believe Owen is prepared to let it go to auction.
“With the position that has been adopted since the November hearing, maybe Valeri is thinking this will prompt him to taking out the loan he has previously spoken about.
“At least in the short term he would have some control over the sale of his assets, because otherwise it goes to auction and then he’s really in the hands of whoever turns up and whoever is prepared to bid.
“It is a remarkable situation but I still don’t think the auction will take place.”
Is the loan Owen’s only other option?
“I believe he will either take out the loan or he will make a proposal to Valeri that is of interest to him. That could then cause dialogue to be opened between the two of them.
“That actually contradicts what I’ve been told is the Latvian position but I think that might still happen.
“Seeing as we’ve reached this point, the logical thing for Owen to do is to take out the loan short term so he can manage the sale of his own assets.
“It’s like with anything, if you own something and even if you know you’ve got to sell it, you’d think you would want to control that process.
“As an estate agent he’s got the facility to do that without costing himself large sums of money in commission.
“But the way it’s being approached at the moment, in terms of not selling anything for six months, means he’s creating this scenario where it could all be taken out of his hands.
“Would someone even loan him the money? Vicki Oyston has laid claim to various assets, Valeri has already got charges on the assets and it’s all going to have to be done pretty quickly.
“If it hasn’t happened already, why hasn’t it happened? Is it because people are concerned about loaning such a large sum of money? Is it commercially viable given the interest repayments it will attract?
“The interest that is likely to accrue without the income streams and with the loss of Blackpool, then that’s a huge commitment.
“In the short term he could manage by selling off assets but that’s not something he can do beyond the short term, unless you’ve got profits coming in from somewhere.
“If he had a profitable business, like Andy Pilley does down the road with BES, then he could service it with the income from the company.
“But where are the income streams which Owen is going to rely on? I can’t see where they are.”