Push The Boundary – Q&A with Simon Blitz 06.01.2020

SB stated that he had come over to have this meeting alongside his Solicitor Jonathon Crook, a meeting that had been weeks and not days in the planning. He was aware that there had been a lot of statements between different parties and wanted to address these in person. Short of saying that these were false, SB did say that he felt “99.9% of the statements are untrue” and was open to any questions.

We want to make it clear that these minutes have been produced from our own notes taken on the evening, in the Q&A and in our meeting with SB afterwards.

Q. Explain the History of Owning the stadium?

The football club has not owned the ground since 1999. Council held control of ground and freehold which was bought off the council by Brassbank for £4.6 Million which was paid for in August 2004. Believes the Chapel Road training ground is leased to the club by council but could not confirm this.

Q. What has led to the fall out with Abdallah regarding the OEC?

The relationship was amicable and doesn’t see why this can’t be rebuilt, but Simon Blitz was made aware of comments from the last Fans Forum where it was mentioned that “£5.2m went missing” so SB then conducted a timeline of events as follows…

In 2008/09 BAE was put up for sale and the council suggested that they could redevelop along with some land handed over from the council. The club closed the deal on BAE and submitted plans to Oldham Council. The Charity Commission wouldn’t allow a stadium to be built on the land as there as there was a war memorial or similar on the site. SB then proposed building houses on the site but this was also rebuked.

Oldham Council agreed they would buy the land back from Oldham Lancaster Club (new entity set up and owned by SB in order to complete the original purchase). The purchase price was £3,154,000. However, Oldham Council can’t be seen to be doing business via a Third Party so a ‘back to back’ transaction took place. This is where the money forming part of the transaction are instantly sent from Oldham Council to OAFC and then to Oldham LC seamlessly. This is commonplace within commercial property deals (see link below)

https://clicktime.symantec.com/3SUL8gcmTUauxieUYEmUB116H2?u=https%3A%2F%2Fuk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com%2Fw-011-2662%3FtransitionType%3DDefault%26contextData%3D%28sc.Default%29%26firstPage%3Dtrue%26bhcp%3D1%29.

When asked the question, SB confirmed that Simon Corney was NOT a director of Oldham LC. £1.085m extra went to purchase the Lancaster club (for the football club), a £700k grant to help build the stand to total £1.785m in total. Brassbank put in an extra £3.8m to build the stand. Final cost was £5.7m and the rent payment was £150k per annum. On the back of this, the stand would stay in the name of Brassbank due to the money that was invested by SB and this was the only way he would get any of his money back.

In December 2016, £350k and also an outstanding loan was paid off (worth £150k). On the basis of this, it was conditional that the facilities within the stand were used for hospitality and all meals charged at cost price only with the expectation that the club kept every penny of net profit. This equated to circa 100k per year. Brassbank paid for the kiosks in the North Stand to be fitted out and this is not included in the overall building costs and has been written off by SB.

SB encouraged AL to approach him to sit around a table to discuss these issues. If he has an issue with making payments, then be honest and they can try and work it out but added that he (SB) wouldn’t be bullied by accusations and statements made by the football club. He didn’t name names but mentioned that there were Directors currently on the board, who were on the Board at the time the above transactions took place.

Q. What debt is there on the OEC and is this owed to OMBC?

The only debt on the stand is a mortgage which it was believed there was circa 7 years remaining + balloon payment at the end (SB confirmed this was commonplace for a commercial mortgage). It was confirmed that they (Brassbank) were overpaying this in order to reduce the balloon payment that will be due. The mortgage is currently circa £28,000 a month and any top up payments that are not being met, are being made by SB himself as and when required.

No money whatsoever is owed by the OEC to Oldham Council. Ownership of the OEC is in the name of SB & Danny Gazal (not Simon Corney).

Q. What are the FLG aiming to do, do they want to own the ground and force pressure on Abdallah? Have the FLG got funds to fulfil their plan or do they need investors?

It was stated that the FLG would look to raise a percentage of funds via a sharehold for fans to be able to invest in the ground. No one person would be allowed to have more than 10% of the shares to ensure it was fair for everyone. Brassbank wouldn’t own any shares.

Q. What was sold to AL upon the sale of the club in January 2018

AL bought the football club. Not the land.

Brassbank don’t own Chapel Rd and SB believed this was owned by Oldham Council. When asked what “the club” was, SB responded that the club is the membership to the football league and it’s shares of which (based on the fact he is no longer a shareholder and hasn’t been since 2011) the current makeup of the sharehold is believed to be 3% Trust / 22% Simon Corney & 75% AL.

Q. Do any covenants exist on the ground protecting it as a football club?

There is no covenant in place but there is an ACV (Asset of Community Value) so with any sale of the 4 stands and/or the pitch, the community have the first right of refusal to this.

Q. Are you ever contacted by any party regarding the ownership and availability of the football club?

SB confirmed he was asked last week about the availability of the club. Prior to the sale, there were numerous people interested although he admitted that as he has not owned the club for a number of years, he doesn’t receive many approaches of this nature.

Q. Is there a chance that the current owner of the club could try to move us away from our home and use the disagreement over the SLA as the catalyst?

SB felt that it’s not his place to comment on what the current owner may or may not do but he felt the cost of moving the club and additional costs in building a new stadium or renting elsewhere, he and the club would be no better off financially than he is now.

Q. Please could you also describe to us the exact boundary of the land that makes up the asset(s) of Brassbank Ltd?

Brassbank owns the footprint of the stadium, then up to and including the dialysis unit, around little Wembley and up to Furtherwood Rd.

Q. Would any investigation (police or otherwise) affect the sale of the ground?

No, absolutely not.

Q. Are you interested in renting out the unused space to the club or supporters? If so, at what £ per square foot?

The units are available to be rented to anyone who wants to use them. They are advertised as available retail units. There is no set price per square foot, this is negotiable, there is an advertised price for the unit downstairs.

Q. Why were you on the pitch at Fulham?

SB was on the pitch because AL made the offer to SB’s son the night before. SB son had stated to AL that Oldham would win against Fulham the day after. AL stated if this happened they could come on the pitch and in the changing rooms. He stayed true to his word on this. SB stated that it was an amazing day and he misses that. The noise that he could hear from the director’s box was unbelievable from the fans. Fulham directors commented about they have never heard noise like it. Always will be a Latics fans as his second team behind Chelsea. Always checks the score.

 

Q. All this bickering between you and the club affects one set of people, us, please outline to us what needs to happen to instigate change before days like Fulham are a distant, unachievable dream?

SB stated that it’s not his position to comment on the current ownership of the club but believed that in an ideal world, the ground and the ownership of the club should be under 1 banner, but in the absence of this, that a “Fan Led Group” should have ownership of the ground via a sharehold to protect it and the fans should be able to decide where the profits from the ground should go.

In terms of on the pitch and within the club, that’s not for SB to state. He can’t comment but empathise/sympathise to a large extent with AL because owning a football club is difficult.

 

Q. The back and forth via club statements is excruciating and you hear a lot of comments saying “just sit down around a table to thrash this out”. Has this happened or has any attempt to make this happen been made at any point?

Wants the club to send someone to speak with him. Wants to move forward but states he will not be bullied.

Q. What are the current Health & Safety Procedures both matchday and non-matchday

No changes to the usual H&S procedures for non-match day events and for matchday (while the SLA remains unsigned) the usual non-matchday procedures apply. All training and H&S procedures are written down and documented and the OEC is responsible for this. They have been approved by the SAG (Safety Advisory Group). States he was contacted by the club to see if they could use stand for disabled access into the ground via the lift. Blitz had no issue with this and was more than happy for them to use it but not happy with suggestion afterwards that safety isn’t thought of.

Q. Abdallah has mentioned that he felt the price being asked for the stand was inflated. What are SB’s comments around this?

The price it is worth is between the buyer and the seller and their valuations of the stand. AL has said that he felt it was overvalued but the offer made for the stadium was less than the cost to build the North Stand. There had been 2 offers made by AL. It was also commented why would you make an offer (or 2 offers) for something you feel you already owned?

Q. How concerned are you around the recent statement made by the club and does this complicate any plans in relation to the agreement between the FLG / BB over the ongoing negotiations?

Not concerned at all about the allegations made and they have already taken steps to engage with Oldham Council and both Oldham and Greater Manchester Police. SB believed that these accusations were made only because they wanted him to postpone the Q&A, but this made him more determined for the meeting to take place.

 

Q. Was Barry Owen involved in all meetings regarding the ownership of North Stand and OEC?

Can’t confirm if he was at all meetings but with him being a Board member he would have known the set up of the north stand / OEC from board meetings which had taken place.

Q. Suggested Brassbank owe money to Abdallah?

Blitz states this was due to there being one gas meter as previously under Corney this wasn’t an issue as the bills were shared. AL was paying gas meter whilst Blitz was paying for Electric including floodlights from North Stand and LED boards. So this money should have more than evened itself out. There are now two gas meters.

Q. It has been stated by the club that they do not owe Brassbank any money. What is the situation from the perspective of Brassbank?

The club owe 2 amounts of money which includes unpaid rent of £166k. There is also a debenture in place for the reasons laid out below.

In December 2015 the club went to the bank to borrow money and for the funds to be released, Landlord approval was needed but SB said no to this request. SB lent money to the club on exactly the same payment terms as the proposed loan. It was over the sharehold of the football club and as part of this, no more money could be borrowed by the football club without SB receiving the money he was owed.

When selling the football club, SB asked for the money loaned to be paid back. In total this was worth £520k. This was via an initial payment and 2 additional payments. £270k would be paid upfront (the sale of the club couldn’t take place without this) and £250k in 2 separate payments of £125k each, one in July 2018 and the second one in January 2019. AL signed that agreement when he bought the club. To date neither of the additional payments have been made by the club.

SB still has a floating debenture on the clubs assets and this was renegotiated when AL bought the club in January 2018.

Q. Could Simon Blitz put us into Administration and if so, why hasn’t he done it?

Nothing other than good nature. It’s only SB saying that he doesn’t want it to happen but has advised he will not be bullied. AL was aware of the terms of the agreement and what he was purchasing. Everything is on the share purchase agreement. Surrender of the old lease with the previous owner was signed by Simon Corney in the middle of 2016. AL has signed that he had seen the agreement and documentation is in place as such. Blitz’ business partner Gazal was angry with the club over recent statements to the point where he rang Blitz to suggest putting the club into admin. Blitz said he wouldn’t do that at this stage, but also stated whilst he didn’t want to do it, this can only go on for so long and there may come a time when he may have to take action.

FLG approached SB a year ago. Their proposal was to have the fans owning the ground so they can control of their own destiny. The fans will own their own house. Blitz wants his £3.8m back as part of the deal to sell the stadium. He would offer this over 4 years with no interest in order to do this. He feels this is fair and asked fans to challenge him on whether this was a fair deal.
Simon Corney is not in any of the current plans at all. Up to 2 months ago they (SB & Simon Corney) hadn’t spoken in a year and a half. Relationship with DG is strong, they are business partners and have been for a number of years. Saw Simon Corney this morning but this was with their solicitors over the recent statements that have been issued.

The business plan relates to the football and anything else is a bonus in relation to functions, meetings etc. Yes, it (the stadium) was offered to AL and more than one offer was made over time. All the back up documents, text messages and call logs are there to prove this.

Q. How much money have you put into the club?

Since taking over £15 Million, with £4.3 Million of that being spent on the North Stand. £4.3 Million includes the fitting out of the kiosks and seats.

Q. Would he be willing to sell unused land?

Unused land is not for sale as he is wanting to build houses on those along with a hotel which he has always wanted to add to the site. Club had been issued a notice on Little Wembley (club has no lease on this and are just allowed to use it) as houses are being put on that. Club asked for extension on this, which Blitz believed was reasonable and therefore granted this request but since then the notice has expired. If SB keeps the ground he would like to add new changing rooms to a corner of the ground.

Q. What’s stopping SB putting houses on the footprint of the ground?

There isn’t anything stopping Blitz but states he always wants football to be played at BP and is happy to put a permanent restriction in place to ensure football will always be played there and no houses in its place. He doesn’t want his legacy as an owner and a person to be that he destroyed the football clubs home and won’t allow that to happen

Q. Would all parties allow an independent auditor to review the shareholding, asset ownership, etc and produce a high level report for the fans so there is no more ambiguity and delivers the transparency which keeps getting talked about?

SB was happy to agree to this and followed up to say that if there were any questions outstanding that required a response or if any of the answers need further clarification then to let him know. We are happy to try and field these and try to do a follow up exercise to finalise any remaining queries.