The Portsmouth Soap: Episode 94
Posted by John Beech on August 29, 2010
In what seems to be now a tradition, my being abroad for a week coincided with yet again a bizarre development at Fratton Park. On Tuesday The Sun revealed that “Lever’s Pomped up for buyout. PORTSMOUTH are wanted by whizkid tycoon Thomas Lever. The 21-year-old Lamborghini-driving son of a wealthy Manchester businessman and local councillor is in advanced talks to buy the Championship crisis club” (1).
On Thursday The Knutsford Guardian had a slightly different spin on the story: “THE son of a bankrupt former Knutsford councillor has put together a £25m takeover bid for Portsmouth Football Club… His father David was made bankrupt on July 5 at Manchester County Court” (2). It would not appear that father David is necessarily down to his last bawby though. According to a report of 14 July in the same newspaper, the bankruptcy arose as a result of a dispute over payment for the framing of 100 pieces of memorabilia by an international art services company (3). David Lever had paid the company £10,000, but had not subsequently paid a further £3,500 although ordered to do so by a County Court judge in March, prompting the art services company to raise bankruptcy proceedings.
I don’t know why, but I get just a hint of déjà-vu about this in the Pompey context. Presumably David Lever is free to leave Knutsford without fear of arrest on gun-running charges though.
The pressure is no doubt on Administrator Andrew Andronikou to find a buyer. His CVA is based on a business model that presumes Portsmouth will stay in the Championship for the next five years, but the thread-bare squad have faced a dismall start to the season, with the club lying joint bottom of the Championship (with, by coincidence, Milan Mandric’s Leicester) after four games. But will this lead to an ‘any port in a storm’ approach? In my opinion, having the 21-year-old Lamborghini-driving son of a wealthy (but legally bankrupt) businessman as the club’s new owner would be (let’s be polite) a sub-optimal outcome. But the actions of previous owners have led the club into this present position, where simply selling to the one potential purchaser is the only option for an Administrator.
There is of course the new toughened-up Owners & Directors test, which replaced the old Fit & Proper Person test, that would have to be passed. This case would certainly show whether or not the new test has any more teeth than the old one. It would be interesting to know the thoughts of David Lampitt on the proposal – he is of course Portsmouth’s recently installed Chief Executive, but was formerly the FA’s Head of Financial Regulation.
Surely a time for new script writers of this particular soap, and a re-think of the plot. The club does not need a re-run of a previous story line, especially one which led to the shambles the club now finds itself in. Mind you, I’m not holding my breath.
Portsmouth did not get their golden share from the Football League yesterday because of incomplete paperwork (A). David Lampitt explained that the end of the transfer window had made this problematic. He expects this to be done within the next week.
The delay may have implications – it gives Tom Lever extra time to put his bid for the club together.
Thomas Lever is reported as falling out with Chris Dailly of Jumbo Bridging with whom he had been in talks about funding (B). ‘Soap’ is definitely the right word for the Pompey saga.