Town takeover given go-ahead

IT is Premier League here we come.Ipswich Town today entered a new era when a multi million pound takeover by media entrepreneur Marcus Evans was officially given the green light.

IT is Premier League here we come.

Ipswich Town today entered a new era when a multi million pound takeover by media entrepreneur Marcus Evans was officially given the green light.

The Evening Star can reveal that Marcus Evans Investments Ltd is to have three representatives on a newly-formed Football Club board at the club.

Evans, who plans to remain reclusive and will not be attending the shareholders' emergency general meeting on Monday, December 17, will not be one of them.

The Ipswich Town plc board is expected to stay the same - but have less teeth - with chairman David Sheepshanks, chief executive Derek Bowden and non-executive director Kevin Beeston being joined by three members of the Evans group on the Football Club board.

This shows that Evans will be keeping a close watch on the way the Coca-Cola Championship club is run, although he has expressed his faith in the current chairman who will continue to control the day to day running of affairs at Portman Road.

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Sheepshanks has sent a letter to all shareholders explaining in detail the reasons for the takeover, the implications and the way it will work.

Evans, the head of a group that specialises in global conference, event organising, sports hospitality and ticketing empire, has also written a personal letter to shareholders.

Some may mourn the end of the proud family traditions of Ipswich Town going back to the Cobbold chairmanship years.

But times have advanced, and Ipswich Town are now having to meet the demands of the 21st century.

Once the cash investment by Evans has been rubber stamped by the EGM, which will have just one resolution, it will clear the £32million debt and put an additional £12million into the club.

Evans, who will have a controlling stake of 87.5per cent in Ipswich Town, will also have a representative on the plc board.

Martin Pitcher, who is director corporate development for Marcus Evans Investments and has been a leading figure in the due diligence process that followed the Evening Star revealing the takeover bid, is to be put forward as a director.

Marcus Evans Investments have the right to appoint one director and initially it will be Pitcher.

Since Evans' interest in transforming the Blues into a real force again in English football, legal processes have been taking place including the due diligence procedure.

This has now been satisfactory completed, and it should now be full steam ahead.

The deal will:

1. Transform the Blues from being a club in Administration in 2003 after relegation from the Premiership.

2. Give them the financial clout necessary to win their way back into the top flight.

3. Allow manager Jim Magilton to enter the transfer market when the window opens on January 1 with £millions at his disposal to spend.

The Evans takeover has to be seen as a commercial deal, with the aim of seeing Town in the Premier League and enjoying the £millions on offer through lucrative TV deals etc.

Thoughts of a sale down the line cannot be discounted, but safeguards have been placed in the deal if it does happen.

Even though a commercial deal it is still the best thing for the club - and its supporters.

They now have a much better chance of seeing their team successful and watching the best players in the world performing regularly at Portman Road.

A month ago a long-term Premier League future was not a realistic possibility. Now it is.

IF more than 1,100 shareholders attend the emergency general meeting at the Ipswich Corn Exchange on December 17, it will be adjourned to reconvene 45 minutes later in the lower tier of the Portman Road North Stand. This is because of safety limits on the number of people in the Corn Exchange.

Some main points from David Sheepshanks' letter to shareholders:

1. Marcus Evans Investments Ltd will acquire all of the debt that is owed by Ipswich Town to Norwich Union and Barclays, which amounts to £32million.

Marcus Evans Investments will effectively step into the shoes of Norwich Union and Barclays.

From now this debt will be intra-group debt owed to the Marcus Evans Group in its capacity as controlling shareholder of the club.

2. One of two anticipated significant debts owed to parties outside the Marcus Evans Group will be £2.6million in respect of convertible loan notes, which will be unaffected by this transaction and will continue to be owed by Ipswich Town plc to the loan note holders.

The other is £1million owed to the Bank of Scotland, which is secured on the club's training ground.

3, Marcus Evans Investments could theoretically over time be repaid by the club.

However, in practice such a return is unlikely to be available to Marcus Evans Investments without the club achieving a long run in the Premier League, which in itself is likely to involve significant investment in the club.

4. Ipswich Town plc will act as custodian for the 12.5pc shareholding not owned by Marcus Evans.

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