Port Vale’s 252 day spell in administration is finally over after Paul Wildes and business partner Norman Smurthwaite completed their takeover of the club on Tuesday.
The news completes a momentous few days for Vale days, following hot on the heels of the unveiling of the long-awaited Roy Sproson statue.
A period of turmoil for the Valiant began in 2010 when bids from businessmen Mike Newton and Mo Chaudry were rejected by then-chairman Bill Bratt. Fans started to turn against the ‘incompetent’ board and the protest groups Black & Gold and Starve ‘Em Out were formed in a bid to force a change of ownership.
The board responded to the criticism by promising more investment and after a deal with US company Ameriturf proved to be a false dawn, a multi-million pound deal with Blue Sky turf was touted as the end to the club’s financial problems.
Bratt sold his shares and relinquished the chairmanship as the new investors sought to appease the fans, but it was all to no avail as the ‘multi-million’ deal was revealed to be worth substantially less than the board had promised. Worse was to come, with the Sentinel newspaper making a series of revelations about board malpractice including the issuing of nil-paid shares to new chairman Peter Miller and CEO Perry Deakin, the re-mortgaging of Vale Park to raise funds and the leaking of Miller’s £100,000-plus salary.
The club went into administration in March after the board’s, now chaired by Mike Lloyd, financial ineptitude saw debts spiralling until the club was eventually unable to pay its tax bill. By this point, a poll by the Port Vale Supporters club revealed that 94% of fans did not support the board.
Despite the protests, the directors had stubbornly ignored appeals from the vast majority of Vale fans to stand aside and after a winding-up petition from HM Revenue and Customs, the club went into administration.
The financing of the administration was underwritten by the club’s main creditors – Stoke-on-Trent city council, who, through their backing allowed the club the chance to survive and find new owners under the guidance of administrators Begsbies-Traynor.
There was a false dawn when reclusive businessman Keith Ryder was named as preferred bidder in April. But despite initial optimism, Ryder was unable to come up with the funds to complete his takeover and the deal collapsed.
Vale were forced to begin the season under the management of the administrators as bids were invited for a second time. Finally, Paul Wildes was named as the new preferred bidder on October 16th.
Wildes’ takeover was a far smoother ride than Ryder’s and within just five weeks, the takeover was completed.
Vale fans will now be hopeful that a new era will bring success both on and off the pitch for the club
A long 252 days…
Port Vale FC entered administration for the second time in the club’s history on March 14th 2012. Here is OVF’s daily diary of the events as they unfolded: