EXCLUSIVE: The moment of truth.
David Cuffley Former Norwich City vice-chairman Barry Skipper today came up with his own formula for bringing billionaire businessman Peter Cullum on board at Carrow Road.
Former Norwich City vice-chairman Barry Skipper today came up with his own formula for bringing billionaire businessman Peter Cullum on board at Carrow Road.
Mr Cullum, executive chairman of the Towergate Partnership, has revealed he is prepared to invest £20m in return for control of the Canaries, but club officials claim he would need to come up with £56m in order to fund a takeover deal, including £20m to repay City's bank debt and loans.
After two days of stand-offs and speculation both club officials and Mr Cullum went to ground yesterday, but City fans have called for both parties to sit down and try and thrash out some kind of deal.
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“On the grounds that both sides seem to be negotiating through the media and all and sundry are free to air their views, this is my solution,” said Mr Skipper, a vice-president of the club.
“Currently Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones own 57.6 per cent of the authorised share capital of the club. Other board members own 4.2 per cent. The authorised but unissued shares account for 5.85 per cent and supporters hold 32.35 per cent.
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“I don't think any existing shareholder has ever paid more than £25 for a share, so let's settle for that as fair value instead of £30.
“As for loans, every professional lender inserts a clause in a loan agreement to call in the loan, if they wish, on change of control or ownership.
“This is sensible, but in reality most loans can continue. I cannot believe the club's current lenders would be unhappy about involvement from Mr Cullum. The same goes for the directors' loans. They are all fans of the club, so there is no reason not to roll over these loans as well. Therefore, saying £20m of debt must be repaid is on the edge of the truth.”
Mr Cullum buys the authorised but unissued shares for £833,325, which would give him a 5.86 per cent shareholding.
Mr Cullum then buys the other board members' shares for £593,675, which takes him to 10.06 per cent.
Mr Cullum then buys 23.77 per cent of Delia and Michael's shares for £3,379,450, giving him 33.83 per cent.
At this point, Mr Cullum would be subject to Rule 9 of the City Code, which states that anyone acquiring a holding of 30 per cent or more of a company's voting rights is obliged to make a general offer to all other shareholders to acquire their shares.
Said Mr Skipper: “This takes him to the point where he must offer all shareholders the same price as he has paid already. But these shares are owned by supporters. They are not holding these shares as an investment. Many only have 100 shares. They are not interested in cashing in for £2,500, just as things could get interesting, but they do account for 32.36 per cent.
“Mr Cullum could safely calculate that he would not get many takers. Thus the total cost to Mr Cullum is £4.8m.”
It would then give the club leeway to negotiate a bigger offer from Mr Cullum.
“Because we supporters all held back from taking his money, surely the current board could negotiate his offer up to £25m. That way we are left with £20m for team building,” said Mr Skipper.
“The most interesting bit is that a new board of six emerges, with Delia and Michael with 33.81 per cent, Mr Cullum's two nominees with 33.83 per cent and two representatives of the supporters with 32.36 per cent. Not quite like Barcelona, but getting there.”
Mr Cullum wants overall control but would not get it under Mr Skipper's proposal.
“You don't necessarily get it. We must remember that one third of the club is owned by supporters at the moment but they don't have a say. This way they can have a say.”
Mr Skipper stepped down from the board of directors in May last year when his 5,000 shares were bought by new directors Andrew and Sharon Turner.
Yesterday, neither club officials nor Mr Cullum were prepared to comment on what happens now.
But Dr Ian Gibson, Norwich North MP and City season ticket-holder, said: “It's time to talk. The fans want to move on.”