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Watford's manager has yet to meet potential investor in discussions with Lord Ashcroft
Watford manager Malky Mackay has confirmed he does not plan to meet the club’s potential new investor until the proposed takeover is closer to completion.
The Hornets’ parent company, Watford Leisure Plc, have confirmed major shareholder Lord Ashcroft is in “early discussions” with an investor over the possible sale of the club.
Watford will not comment on the prospect of the club being sold due to Stock Exchange rules but the chairman of Watford Supporters Trust has this week revealed the board have met with the investor.
Mackay hasn’t but the Hornets boss stated he would welcome a takeover if the new owners “invested in the structure we have here”.
Mackay said: “No I have not met the possible investor yet, it is important that the business side of that is sorted out first before I go and discuss things with him.
“It is important the situation is sorted out first and while that is happening I have to concentrate on what we are doing on the pitch, getting results and wins on a Saturday.
“We have a very good board of directors who have the club’s best interests at heart.
“It is not a shock that we need financial investment in the club going forward. If someone comes in with that then I will welcome them, if it is someone who can add to Watford in terms of infrastructure, whether that be a new East Stand, a new pitch, the South-West corner and the press rooms and things like that which are going to help this club and give it a bit more pride, then all the better.”
Mackay believes Watford would be an attractive proposition to someone looking to buy a football club, stating the Harefield Academy, location and their level of debt as positives.
Watford have been looking for a new investor for some time and on July 13 consolidated most of their debt into £10.142m of secured bonds, which need to be either renegotiated or paid off by next July.
Mackay said: “The bond is out there, exactly how much the club is in debt and compare that to a lot of clubs, we are in a reasonable state for someone to invest and that is evident at the moment.”
Watford were keen to keep interest in the club under wraps, but this week chief executive Julian Winter confirmed the announcement had to be made because the company is publicly quoted.
Winter said: “The Takeover Panel approached our city advisors to inform them they were aware of interest or a rumour and it is at that point, because we are a Plc, that we had to publically acknowledge the interest as per the Takeover Panel’s advice.”
Parent company Watford Leisure released the statement on Friday of last week.
It read: “The board of Watford Leisure notes recent media speculation referencing discussions between the largest shareholder in the company and a potential buyer of his shares, which acquisition would then require an offer to be made for the company, and confirms that it is aware of such discussions but they are at a very early stage and there can be no certainty that an offer for the company will be forthcoming. A further announcement will be made in due course.”
There have been two further announcements from Watford Leisure since then, one stating the basic details of the company, as required by the City Code, and one relating to former chairman Graham Simpson transferring almost half of his shares.
However, supporters trust chairman Graham Sterry has this week revealed the club’s board have already met with the potential investor.
Sterry told BBC Three Counties Radio: “What he [Winter] has told me gives me grounds for confidence going forward. The club seems happy with the way things are developing.
“Julian said we are in the early stages, it’s as simple as that. But I do understand, whoever it is, has met the board.”
Speculation surrounding a possible takeover was increased further this week by the news Simpson had given almost half of his shares to his wife, Yianna.
This resulted in Simpson’s personal shareholding in the club reducing to 8.24 per cent, with his wife’s stake increasing to 8.55 per cent. However, the couple’s combined shareholding has not changed as together they still hold approximately 16.79 per cent.
On the Simpson announcement, Winter added: “For anyone with an interest, it needs to be a matter of record when there is movement of shares concerning a party that holds an interest of greater than one per cent.”
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