Creditors showdown for Crystal Palace chief

MARK GOLDBERG, the beleaguered chairman of Crystal Palace Football Club, will today make a desperate effort to avoid bankruptcy amid allegations over his assets. At a meeting of his creditors in London, the former multi-millionaire will seek a "voluntary arrangement" with people he owes money to as an alternative to filing for bankruptcy. He owes over pounds 30m.

Mr Goldberg claims it will be better for both parties if he is not prevented from continuing as a director of his businesses. He says his creditors will get twice as much money than if he was forced into bankruptcy. But some creditors believe Mr Goldberg's assessment of his assets and debts do not tell the full story and that they are no more likely to get their money back by helping him avoid bankruptcy.

Among them is Ron Noades, the former Palace chairman who sold the club to Mr Goldberg, and who says he is owed pounds 4.7m. His solicitor, Titmuss Sainer Dechert, has written to other creditors pointing out its concerns regarding Mr Goldberg's accounting. The letter, obtained by The Independent, says: "Our client [Mr Noades] has a number of concerns about the content of the voluntary arrangement proposals and has instructed us to write to you." It ends: "Our client is of the view that the proposals are unacceptable and should be rejected."

Today's meeting represents the end of a dream for Mr Goldberg, a Crystal Palace fan since he was a boy. He bought the club last year with money made by selling a company specialising in computer expertise. His dream collapsed when it became clear there was not the capital to invest in players. He brought the former England coach Terry Venables to the club in an expensive deal, only for him to leave months later. The club, FA Cup finalists in 1990, faces expulsion from the First Division unless the administrators can sort out its debts of pounds 20m.

At the heart of the row is Mr Goldberg's assessment of his personal debts and assets. To obtain a voluntary arrangement Mr Goldberg requires those holding 75 per cent of his debt to agree to the deal. The letter from Mr Noades' solicitor points out several areas where he believes the assessment is wrong.

But Mr Goldberg's assessment is based on a full audit duly authorised by accountants. Last night Mr Goldberg said he believed Mr Noades was trying to destroy him. "I am offering my creditors a chance to get some money back - it seems Ron Noades does not want me to do that. I think he is trying to destroy me for his own ego.

"If I am forced to go bankrupt I will still have the knowledge that helped me form a company worth pounds 200m. That can never be taken away from me. I will just start again from scratch."

Mr Noades yesterday confirmed he would be opposing the voluntary arrangment. He denied the suggestion this was part of a plan to buy back Crystal Palace. "No one is going to get involved with Crystal Palace if there is a chance that Goldberg will be there," he said.

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