Chairman Norman Smurthwaite has issued a statement on the potential sale of the club.
It is produced in full below:
Valiants, following the Sentinel’s report over the weekend regarding potential bidders, I would like to give you the background history.
On the 10th November 2015 I was approached by an American consortium hedge fund who wished to purchase Port Vale Football Club. One of the conditions in order for them to raise the appropriate funds was that I was to announce that the football club was up for sale. The previous Saturday we played Maidenhead in the FA cup and I advised them that any such announcement could be disruptive and that I would not make such an announcement until we had exited the FA Cup competition.
As you will recall, I announced on the 7th December 2015 that Port Vale Football Club was up for sale, following our exit from the FA Cup at Exeter.
Without my knowledge a local business had approached Bill Lodey wishing to obtain his assistance to progress the potential purchase of the Club who made certain applications to the Football League, again without my knowledge.
I subsequently met the owners of the local business at their legal team’s offices. At the same time the main principle of the hedge fund from Boston was also in Stoke waiting for a meeting to conclude their exclusivity. In view of the local company’s passion for the area, their people resource and the fact that they could meet the agreed asking price without any need for finance, I agreed to enter into an exclusivity arrangement with themselves and, after that meeting went to face the other contingent, which was a difficult meeting, to explain why I would not be proceeding with them.
The local company paid a fee for their exclusivity and were granted just over three months to undertake their due diligence when their professional advisers had full access to all information relating to the Club and with the full assistance of all appropriate staff members. Indeed, even Rob Page met with them on several occasions and it was understood that their purchase was imminent. Regrettably they chose to significantly reduce their offer and conceded that they now needed finance to proceed to purchase the Club or could proceed to purchase the football club without purchasing the stadium. With that knowledge I announced that the sale would not be proceeding.
Negotiations with the Boston consortium were re-opened and an exclusivity agreement was entered into on the 14th March 2016. When they came back with their offer in early June they had raised the agreed initial purchase price from their investors but no working capital. One of their conditions was that they required me to remain in the chair as CEO/Chairman until the 30th June 2017. I felt that without any working capital there would be no advantage in selling the Club or indeed having me run it as an employee for that period so our negotiations ended.
On the 16th June 2016 I entered into an exclusivity agreement with a Norwegian hedge fund and, as with previous agreements, a fee was paid by this party to the Club and they had full access to all the relevant information and full cooperation from the appropriate staff. Due to a serious disagreement between Bruno Ribero and the senior management of the hedge fund, they chose not to continue with the purchase at the end of their exclusivity period.
In December 2016 you will recall that Bruno Ribero resigned his position as manager and this resulted in the Norwegian consortium re-opening negotiations and at the same time the Boston consortium, having raised additional funds, also came back looking to re-open negotiations.
It is no secret that I have certain reservations in both hedge fund owners and separating the football club from the ground, from the same principle owner. With this in mind, I chose to seek the advice of some long standing fans regarding the proposals/offers that were put forward and furnished them with emails within the last ten days. Not only have they not had the courtesy to come back with any observations, but that information has now been leaked to The Sentinel.
On Friday I received a telephone call from The Sentinel to advise that they were in possession of this information. I advised that I felt it would be inappropriate for them to disclose any of the information as it could put at risk any potential sale; sadly that was ignored.
When seeking advice from the inner circle of people I rely upon within Port Vale, I was advised that I was being naive to assume that seeking any advice outside of the football club would result in a constructive outcome. In view of recent events as and when Port Vale Football Club is sold a press conference will be called to announce the same.
Finally I have tried to engage with fans via social media over the past four years to give information which I thought was helping overcome the challenges they had endured in the previous ten years prior to my ownership. Sadly this had not either been done very well by myself or indeed been constructive. Going forward there will be no dialogue regarding football matters via social media. Sadly I do not think this will change the activities of the keyboard warriors but at least they will now know that I will not be reading or responding to it.
To the true Port Vale supporters, I am deeply sorry for the management appointment I made this summer and the position we now find ourselves in the table. I request that you put all differences that you have with myself to one side and that you please come and give your wholehearted support to help us climb out of the difficult position we find ourselves in.
It gives me some solace that the performance of the whole team at last weekend’s game in Southend has been the best away performance I have seen this season. If we continue to build on this then I feel that our league status will be secure but again ask for your support in helping us to get over that line.