Russo v Bassini High Court case shines light on power struggles at Watford FC

Watford Observer: 12 nuggets of information from the Russo-Bassini High Court case 12 nuggets of information from the Russo-Bassini High Court case

The High Court battle between Laurence Bassini and the Russo brothers shone a light on a murky period in Watford FC’s history.

The four-day trial at the High Court this month centred around the £3.6 million Bassini received from the former Hornets directors Jimmy and Vince Russo just before and during his takeover.

The court struggle was a bitter affair. But it gave fans a behind-the-scenes insight into Bassini’s turbulent tenure at Vicarage Road.

A number of things became clear or clearer...

1. You don’t need too many qualifications to buy a Championship football club: In his evidence to the judge Bassini said prior to buying Watford FC “he had no particular knowledge of football but liked the game”.

Watford Observer:

2 You don’t need too many qualifications to run a Championship football club: During evidence Laurence Bassini described his solicitor, Angelo Barrea, as “de facto CEO” of Watford FC. When the Russos’ barrister, Nicholas Stewart QC, suggested this was a role “for which (Barrea) had no experience”, Mr Bassini replied: “No, but he had a love of football.”

3. You don’t need to be able to spell to take over a championship football club: The evidence at the trial was light on documents. Not surprising as both sides had agreed to shred all the paperwork to keep the deal hidden. However, the judge commented that the early legal documents between Bassini and the Russos were “poorly drafted”, with one referring to “Watford Football Cub PLC”.

Watford Observer:

4. We still don’t know much about pre-takeover Bassini: When he emerged to buy the club all we knew about Laurence Bassini was that he was a businessman from Stanmore who had changed his name from “Bazini” after being made bankrupt in 2007. This trial was an opportunity to learn a bit more about one of the club’s more enigmatic custodians. Yet all we learnt was prior to the takeover he worked in his family business in “cosmetics, perfume and property”.

Watford Observer:

5. School qualifications are not necessary to achieve success: During his evidence former Watford FC chairman Jimmy Russo said he left school with one O-Level in woodwork. However in court it emerged he and his brother Vince have built their company, Valley Grown Salads, into an operation with an annual turnover in excess of £24 million.

Watford Observer:

6. Project Luther: Early negotiations between the Russo brothers and Bassini over his plans to buy the club were named after Watford FC’s legendary striker, Luther Blissett (pictured below). Or possibly Lex...

Watford Observer:

7. The Italian Connection: Before the case the exact connection between Laurence Bassini and the Russos was unclear - except for the more than £4.5 million the brothers had given him. In court it was revealed that Bassini was introduced to the Russos through the Italian community. The father of Bassini’s solicitor, Angelo Barrea, had been an employee of an old friend of the Russos called Gino Magistro. According to the judge’s notes, Magistro and the Russos had grown up together after their parents came to England from Sicily at the same time.

Watford Observer:

8. The Russos lost considerable money on their Watford investments: Court documents showed that when the Russos first bought a 20 per cent share in Watford FC’s parent company, Watford Leisure PLC, the investment was worth £2 million. When they sold their 29.9 per cent share in the club in 2011 it was worth a mere £135,000.

Watford Observer:

9. There was no love lost between the old Watford board and the Russos (Jimmy and Vince are pictured below): The court was told that the year before Mr Bassini bought Watford FC for 1p a share (around £440,000), the board had rejected a higher offer from the Russos to buy the club for 3p a share.

Watford Observer:

10. Lord Ashcroft (pictured below) rejected an offer of a joint Russo ownership: During his evidence, Jimmy Russo said he had previously suggested to Lord Ashcroft, who was a major shareholder of the club, that they should buy Watford together. Mr Russo said the Conservative peer declined, saying he was a “comfortable investor”.

Watford Observer:

11. The Russos' exasperation with Bassini started the ball rolling on the Pozzo takeover: In his ruling, the judge said by January 2012 the Russo brothers felt the only way they would recoup their money was if the club was sold. He said this prompted them to start talks with a “prospective purchaser in Spain”. At the time Gino Pozzo (pictured below) lived in Barcelona. The Italian football family eventually bought Watford for £550,000.

Watford Observer:

12. Bassini does not wear his famous red hard hat all the time: Well, he was not sporting it in court. Disappointing, as I doubt many Hornets fans would recognise him without it. 

Watford Observer:

Comments (8)

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12:13pm Fri 28 Mar 14

shrodells67 says...

Well done W/O. As they say "Revenge is a dish best served cold".
Loving it.
Well done W/O. As they say "Revenge is a dish best served cold". Loving it. shrodells67
  • Score: 33

12:49pm Fri 28 Mar 14

overhere says...

#11 is probably the most revealing, we never knew how much the club was sold for in 2012 but didn't Baz claim he turned down an 8 figure sum? I suppose £500k is 8 figure with the pence column included.
#11 is probably the most revealing, we never knew how much the club was sold for in 2012 but didn't Baz claim he turned down an 8 figure sum? I suppose £500k is 8 figure with the pence column included. overhere
  • Score: 17

1:21pm Fri 28 Mar 14

inayellowshirt says...

Saved the best till last,... item 12 The Hat
Saved the best till last,... item 12 The Hat inayellowshirt
  • Score: 18

1:21pm Fri 28 Mar 14

Buford T Justice says...

He's short, he's fat, he wears a big red hat....Bassini, Bassini!! (and repeat)
He's short, he's fat, he wears a big red hat....Bassini, Bassini!! (and repeat) Buford T Justice
  • Score: 15

4:22pm Fri 28 Mar 14

MIBSWE says...

Wow....all these rich boys and a ping pong ball in the middle called Bassini. All acting like a bunch of Children in the playground, playing mind games and keeping secrets from the only people that matter...THE FANS!!

I'm gobsmacked as to why it got into such a mess and ultimately cost Russos a lot of Money. There was Always a rumour that Bassini was in fact a front for the Russos, albeit only as Investors backing someone who didn't have a clue about running a club!! You do wonder why people don't do simple due diligence. God knows how Bassini got through the FA checks.

Anyway, time to look forward and laugh in hindsight at the comical twists and turns that multi millionaires get themselves into when it comes to football. You realise as you get older that these people who play a role of superiority due to their wealth are no better than you and me and as it seems lose all common sense when it comes to football.

Forzza Watford. In the FANS I trust Always as the owners are just temporary Guardians and as it seems we're in safe hands for the forseeable future.
Wow....all these rich boys and a ping pong ball in the middle called Bassini. All acting like a bunch of Children in the playground, playing mind games and keeping secrets from the only people that matter...THE FANS!! I'm gobsmacked as to why it got into such a mess and ultimately cost Russos a lot of Money. There was Always a rumour that Bassini was in fact a front for the Russos, albeit only as Investors backing someone who didn't have a clue about running a club!! You do wonder why people don't do simple due diligence. God knows how Bassini got through the FA checks. Anyway, time to look forward and laugh in hindsight at the comical twists and turns that multi millionaires get themselves into when it comes to football. You realise as you get older that these people who play a role of superiority due to their wealth are no better than you and me and as it seems lose all common sense when it comes to football. Forzza Watford. In the FANS I trust Always as the owners are just temporary Guardians and as it seems we're in safe hands for the forseeable future. MIBSWE
  • Score: 7

7:50pm Fri 28 Mar 14

Billie says...

What is incredible is that for other shareholders the Board deliberately disadvantaged them by rejecting a higher offer from the Russo's and selling for less to a chancer like Baz, presumably out of spite. The disrespect towards fans and small shareholders by Simpson in particular is there for all to see. An AIM listed Company too. Shame on them.
What is incredible is that for other shareholders the Board deliberately disadvantaged them by rejecting a higher offer from the Russo's and selling for less to a chancer like Baz, presumably out of spite. The disrespect towards fans and small shareholders by Simpson in particular is there for all to see. An AIM listed Company too. Shame on them. Billie
  • Score: 10

4:09pm Sun 30 Mar 14

andyhooked says...

I appear to have seen that Leeds' takeover was blocked by as someone was not passing the so-called "Right and Proper Persons Test" . Then there are problems up at Brom. Have did Mr Red Hat get through the non-test for a Right and Proper Person is beyond me. This is now history, apart from the significant LNOC issue. All us great lovers of WFC can hope for is that things will continue to only get better.
I appear to have seen that Leeds' takeover was blocked by as someone was not passing the so-called "Right and Proper Persons Test" . Then there are problems up at Brom. Have did Mr Red Hat get through the non-test for a Right and Proper Person is beyond me. This is now history, apart from the significant LNOC issue. All us great lovers of WFC can hope for is that things will continue to only get better. andyhooked
  • Score: 1

8:23am Wed 2 Apr 14

corbindallas says...

Very interesting that the former board rejected a higher bid for the club, I thought this should have been made public knowledge on a PLC basis and to that end reckon there is a recourse for legal action against the former board for perverting financial market regulations. As we know there was some big investors in WFC and I cannot see why they would settle for less on their return unless they assumed a bigger offer was en route that never came? As for the sum paid for the club it amazes me that the club has been sold for £440k and then £550k when it was always suggested to the market as a value of between £10 million and £15 million and thus why we poured our hard earned money into the club buying shares.
Very interesting that the former board rejected a higher bid for the club, I thought this should have been made public knowledge on a PLC basis and to that end reckon there is a recourse for legal action against the former board for perverting financial market regulations. As we know there was some big investors in WFC and I cannot see why they would settle for less on their return unless they assumed a bigger offer was en route that never came? As for the sum paid for the club it amazes me that the club has been sold for £440k and then £550k when it was always suggested to the market as a value of between £10 million and £15 million and thus why we poured our hard earned money into the club buying shares. corbindallas
  • Score: 1

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