Laurence Bassini bought Watford FC after his brother encouraged him to go and find something he wanted to do.
The Stanmore businessman recounted the events leading up to his acquisition of the club at a High Court trial this week as former Hornets directors, Jimmy and Vince Russo, sue him for more than £3.6million loaned to him before and during the club.
Mr Bassini denies the money was loans and says it was the price of the brothers secretly owning half the club with him.
The court heard this week that prior to his takeover, in 2011, Mr Bassini had been helping out with his family’s business in cosmetics, perfume and property.
The Russo brothers’ barrister, Nicholas Stewart QC, queried this saying that during an oral examination at an earlier court hearing Mr Bassini said he had “done nothing for three years” before his involvement with Watford.
Mr Bassini replied: “I did not want to stay at home so I went to the warehouse and helped with things like the property for them (his family). I was purchasing property.”
He said his brother had told him he would help Mr Bassini fund a venture. When he decided he wanted to get involved in football, Mr Bassini said his brother wanted him to have a lawyer with him.
Mr Bassini said: “What happened at the time, my brother was dealing with Angelo (Barrea) and said ‘I’ll give Laurence this money but he needs to have a solicitor at the club’. Angelo wanted to get out of law and I said ‘let’s try and get a club’.”
When Mr Stewart then questioned what role Mr Barrea played during his tenure at Watford FC, Mr Bassini responded: “To start with it was going to be legal things but he ended up as CEO – de facto CEO”.
Mr Stewart then suggested this was a role “for which (Barrea) had no experience.” Mr Bassini replied: “No, but he had a love of football”.
The court heard Mr Bassini had already lined-up a number of backers for his planned takeover of Watford FC before he met with the Russos in January 2011.
He said his brother had provided £500,000 with an option for another £1 million and his brother’s business partner had put up £750,000. Mr Bassini also said he had £500,000 from football agent Jerome Anderson and that football financier Keith Harris had made a £7 million facility available to him.
Bassini backer: football financier Keith Harris (picture: Action Images).
“I had about £10 million to play with,” said Mr Bassini. However, he denied telling the Russos he had a £100 million family trust he could draw on. He said: “I never had a trust of £100 million. If I had £100 million, I wouldn’t sell half the shares for £3.5 million – it’s a nonsense. It is not £100 million, but there is a family trust and if I need money I go and ask.”
Later in his evidence, Mr Bassini said his dealings with the Russos had been kept secret at their request “because of all the problems he had had at Watford previously”.
Mr Bassini also strongly disputed the Russos had loaned him the £3.6 million at the heart of the case.
He added: “Jimmy Russo has got a very big ego and wanted the whole world to see and to flex his muscles. He is like a control freak. Everyone has to stand in line. He is a bully. But what he is saying is nonsense.
“For me, 90 per cent of football is completely crooked and I was happy to get out of it. But he (Jimmy Russo) wanted to be in it.”