Lineker cast as the saviour of Leicester
Tuesday 22 October 2002
Gary Lineker is fronting a takeover bid for Leicester City, who were placed in administration yesterday, but has no plans to play a significant hands-on role at the financially-stricken First Division club.
The 41-year-old former Leicester and England striker and lifelong Foxes fan will be the public face of a consortium whose wealthiest member is David Ross, the co-founder and chief operating officer of Carphone Warehouse. Other members include Leicester's current chairman, Martin George, the club's plc chairman, Greg Clarke, and Jon Holmes, the managing director of SFX Sports Group who is also a Leicester fan and Lineker's agent.
Lineker, George, Clarke and Holmes will all invest in the takeover, but Ross, with a personal fortune estimated at £227m, is likely to emerge as the main investor. Although he is a Grimsby supporter, Ross has a house in Leicestershire and has been attracted to the venture through his friendship with Lineker. "The objective of the consortia will be to buy Leicester City as a going concern from the administrator and to back [Leicester's manager] Micky Adams and the team in their quest for promotion," the club said yesterday.
The consortium will outline its plans in more detail tomorrow. The members hope to conclude a buyout as soon as possible. A revamped board may or not involve George and Clarke, who have overseen the club's move into administration. Lineker has no plans to become a director or see his involvement interfere with his job as a BBC presenter.
Only last week, Leicester reached agreement with its players to defer a percentage of their wages to ease the club's financial difficulties, which, like many clubs, have been made worse – if not caused by – the collapse of ITV Digital. Demands from other creditors have since exacerbated the situation and it is understood that a tax bill for around £1.5m was the straw that finally broke the fox's back.
News that Leicester were petitioning the High Court to be placed in administration came via a statement to the London Stock Exchange yesterday morning. "Unfortunately, immediate creditor pressure and the inability to reach agreement with all major creditors have meant that a restructuring outside administration has not been possible," the statement said.
Leicester have reported debts approaching £40m, including £28m borrowed to pay for their new £35m stadium. These debts effectively became unsustainable the moment the club was relegated from the Premiership in May.
Demotion is estimated to cost at least £15m per season in lost revenue. Players' contracts – signed at Premiership levels – also become more burdensome. Even the offloading of several players, for combined fees of £8.5m, has not been enough. When shares in the club were suspended from the Stock Exchange on 10 October, they had plummeted to leave the company worth a little less than £3m.
It is not known how much Lineker's consortium are offering, but a figure between £3m and £5m seems likely. This will be decided in consultation with the administrators as part of a long-term survival plan.
"The directors believe that administration should give the club sufficient protection to enable the restructuring which they have endeavoured to conclude over the last three months to be completed," a club statement said. Clarke added: "Whilst this [administration] is a severe setback for the club it does not mean the end of Leicester City."
Adams, who has led his side to third place in the table, received the news of administration with caution. "It is an unsettled period for everyone," he said. "I think the players are protected under their agreement, but the staff might not be and that is something that has to be sorted out. All I am concerned with is keeping everyone together."
Leicester are the latest – and biggest – club to apply for administration, a fact that will add urgency to fledging "wage downsizing" plans being formulated by the Football League. The League wants to see mandatory fixed salary reductions at all clubs relegated from the Premiership. The scheme is likely to face several hurdles – including possible legal challenges – before getting anywhere near adopted.
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