Football: Goldberg's father-in-law `in Palace bid'

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The Independent Online
THE FATHER-IN-LAW of Crystal Palace's chairman, Mark Goldberg, was last night thought to be part of a consortium that is hoping to take control of the financially troubled First Division club.

Les Hapgood, the father of Goldberg's wife Mia, will meet Palace's administrators today to discuss his proposals, according to a senior source at Selhurst Park. It is understood that Hapgood, a Bromley-based businessman who used to own a pub and a catering company, will inject around pounds 250,000 into the club to help tide it through administration. The other members of his consortium, as yet unidentified, are understood to be prepared to invest up to pounds 1m in total to help Palace out of trouble. The club has debts of pounds 20m.

"The club needs an injection of pounds 10m to ensure that its debts are dealt with and that it has considerable working capital," the source told the Independent yesterday. "We'll have to wait to see precisely what the father- in-law's consortium is offering."

Palace's administrator, Simon Paterson of Moore Stephens, confirmed yesterday that there is a meeting, scheduled for today, with "an interested party" but he would not confirm or deny that Hapgood was involved. He did confirm however, that the meeting will not involve another consortium, consisting of a group of Palace directors, who are still hoping to come up with a rescue plan of their own.

Goldberg bought Palace last year for pounds 23m but it soon became apparent that he did not possess adequate financial resources to fund his ambitions for the club. He brought the former England coach, Terry Venables, to Selhurst Park in a multi-million deal that foundered after a few months. Goldberg also oversaw the signing of more than a dozen players - paid up to pounds 13,000 per week each - and the payment of up to pounds 1m in agents' fees alone.

Despite the club going into administration earlier this year, Goldberg has maintained that he still wants to be involved in running it. His critics have argued that the club's only realistic chance of survival is if Goldberg moves aside to allow new investors in. Technically speaking, Goldberg would not be directly involved in the running of Palace if Hapgood was part of a takeover, but it is unlikely that supporters or potential investors will see such as regime as wholly independent.

The club has until 2 August, when a Football League board meeting will take place, to come up with solutions to its problems. Should the administrator fail to convince the League that Palace is a viable business proposition for the coming season, the club faces expulsion.

Goldberg's financial problems - he has personal debts of pounds 30m - were under the spotlight yesterday when a meeting of his creditors took place in London. Goldberg was granted a two-week stay of execution from potential bankruptcy while his creditors decide whether to accept or reject an offer of partial payment on the money Goldberg owes them.

n Terry Smith, an American former NFL footballer yesterday agreed a takeover package with the administrators of Third Division Chester City. Smith's consortium bought the club - in administration since last November - for an undisclosed sum and plans to run it as a community-based venture.

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