Football: Venables to use courts as he attempts Spurs take-over: Documents obtained by the Independent show Tottenham's chief executive aims to use legal means to force Sugar to sell as he attempts to take control of club

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The Independent Online
TERRY VENABLES, the embattled chief executive of Tottenham Hotspur, will use the courts to try and force Alan Sugar to sell his controlling interest in the club. Venables wants to buy Sugar's 47.8 per cent stake and is willing to pay a price set by the court.

Venables' intentions were made clear at the High Court hearing last Friday when he won an injunction which reversed a decision made by Tottenham's board earlier that day to sack him.

Legal documents obtained by The Independent give an account of Friday's hearing, and show that as well as securing the injunction preventing his dismissal, Venables asked the court to order Sugar to sell his part of Spurs to him. Venables' argument is that if Sugar is prepared to sack his chief executive - a crucial cog in Tottenham's resurgence - Sugar is not the right person to run the company, and his shares should be taken from him.

It seems clear that Venables would not be able to put up the cash for the deal himself as he is already financially stretched paying off loans taken out to buy his current holding. However, last night the Venables camp said he would be able to find backers to aid a buy-out.

Nick Hewer, a spokesman for the Sugar camp, said last night: 'The point is that the counter argument could not be presented last Friday. And therefore there was no finding by the court on the facts, which is exactly why both sides are going back to court so that it can hear both sides of the story.'

The documents also contain details of an allegedly tacit agreement between Sugar and Venables that they would remain equal partners even in the event of Sugar acquiring a greater shareholding than Venables. Hewer's response was that it 'could not be more strongly denied' that such an agreement existed.

At yesterday's market price of pounds 1.01 Sugar's stake in Tottenham Hotspur plc, whose shares are traded on the Stock Exchange, is worth pounds 7.7m.

The documents also outline why Venables' dismissal was blocked. The court was told that there was no one else at Tottenham apart from Venables who could run the football-related activities. As the company's main business was operating the football team, the court said there were grounds to halt the sacking - at least until a fuller hearing could examine the details.

Jonathan Crystal - the director of Tottenham who voted in support of Venables at Friday's board meeting - made a written submission to the court saying: 'It is beyond argument that if Mr Venables is removed from the affairs of the company it will have a massive impact upon the finances, morale and support.'

The matter is due to return to the courts on Tuesday but at Friday's hearing the judge, Mrs Justice Arden, said: 'If Mr Venables ceases to be chief executive continuity is lost. I am told that some players will leave and supporters will go elsewhere or not renew their season tickets.'

Tottenham's improved financial performance while Venables has been chief executive was also cited as a reason to block his dismissal from the board. After losing money in the 1990 and 1991 financial years, Tottenham have made profits since Sugar and Venables won control.

Tony Berry, the deputy chairman of the club, has dismissed reports that he was to replace Venables, should the High Court hearing go against Venables. Berry described them as 'utterly ridiculous', adding, 'I have absolutely no experience of football management and no desire to take on such a role.' He did not say, however, whether he might be placed in charge of contractual matters and transfer negotiations which are also a part of the chief executive's responsibilities.

Ray Wilkins ended speculation about a managerial move when he signed a new one-year contract to carry on playing for Queen's Park Rangers. Wilkins, 36, had been linked with the vacant manager's job at his former club Chelsea and a possible vacancy at Crystal Palace.

Viv Anderson, the Sheffield Wednesday defender, has also signed a new-one year contract but been told by the club that they would view 'sympathetically' any approach to Anderson to go into management.

David O'Leary, the Arsenal veteran, has been linked with West Ham. Southampton have offered an undisclosed sum for the Hamilton Academical pair, Paul McDonald, a winger, and Colin Cramb, a striker, and hope to conclude a deal by the weekend.

Play-off reports, page 39

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