Richard Wiseman and Steve Clarke met with Richard Murray on Saturday at The Valley at a meeting suggested by Richard Murray following the statement issued by CARD earlier in the week. Below is a summary of the meeting:
We asked Richard if he could shed some more light on the three areas where we felt that supporters were most concerned at the moment.
(1) progress in selling the club
(2) a potential fire sale of players
(3) management of the business in the absence of senior permanent staff.
We began by asking him what he could tell us about timescales for conclusion of a sale and, in particular, whether he thought there was any realistic possibility of a deal being reached before the end of the January window.
He began by emphasising that the most significant point was that Roland has made up his mind to sell the club.
He told us that he (Richard) was not party to negotiations at all. His role (along with other club staff) was limited to representing the club to interested parties once they had satisfied Roland of their serious intent. This involved showing them around and promoting the positives and the potential of the club. He confirmed that he was not a member of any of the interested consortia.
He said that “a number” of consortia had done due diligence (which can require an investment of up to £150k) and that he is aware of two consortia actively involved in negotiations. He believes “one of them was further ahead than the other”. He made the point that, if Roland is currently only negotiating with two parties, then other parties had obviously dropped their interest for one reason or another.
He said that he was sure that the club would be sold at the latest by this summer as Roland would not want to go into another season with further losses accruing and crowds dwindling. In his opinion (“although I may be wrong”) the most likely month for a sale to be concluded is February. He noted that, even if a buyer and Roland came to an agreement, the buyer would still have to satisfy the EFL as a “fit and proper person” and that they had sufficient funds to cover losses at the current level for two seasons.
He said that the two consortia in current negotiations would be well aware of the significance of the transfer window but it hasn’t pushed either of them to seek to accelerate the process or to walk away. Part of that is that any serious buyer will be looking at a minimum of a five year commitment and over such a time scale one window is not so significant.
He noted that he thought that the ex-directors with outstanding loans would be “accommodating” to anyone who wanted to make a deal.
We suggested that the main thing which is alarming and angering supporters is the prospect of a “fire sale” of players rather like that which occurred at Standard Liege when Roland sold the club.
Richard said that in his opinion there is definitely no fire sale. He said that Roland is not actively looking to cash in by selling players.
Ricky Holmes decided that he had a one-off opportunity at his age to play for a top Championship team. Secondly, Karl is very aware that our real shortage is of number nines and Karl is not unhappy to be able to use Ricky’s wages on two strikers – in particular a 6 foot 1 inch sort of striker who can “help Josh out”.
Richard explained that negotiations on the terms of the sale of Holmes were conducted by himself and Steve Gallen and Chris Parkes. A recommendation was then put to Roland who agreed the deal subject to a few tweaks.
There have been no firm offers for Ezri Konsa but Ezri has seen Gomez and Lookman get moves to Premier League clubs and it is natural that he would want to do the same if the chance was there. But, anyone looking to buy the club would inevitably see Konsa as a major asset and argue that his departure should affect the sale price. Roland is aware of that and therefore the incentive for Roland to sell him is reduced. Roland is also aware that Charlton is a much more attractive proposition as a Championship club.
We put it to Richard that within a few days there could be five loan players in the squad which would mean that no further loans could be arranged and Konsa could not be loaned back if he did leave. What could Richard do in that situation ?
Richard said that in that event he would be on the phone to Roland making the point “most forcibly” that we should use at least some of the Konsa fee to strengthen the squad with permanent signings. He said that he has 24 hour access to Roland and his experience is that Roland listens. He estimated that his chances of persuading Roland in those circumstances were “good”.
He said that Roland for example was being very “flexible” at the moment in an attempt to secure the loan of Kaikai from Palace who were demanding various conditions.
We asked about Richard’s role and how the club could be run in the absence of a CEO.
Richard felt that the club can function effectively on a day to day basis in the medium term but that, without a permanent full-time CEO, there was little opportunity for forward thinking and planning.
On a day to day basis Richard can give director’s authority to decisions and provide continuity and reassurance. He felt he gives good support to Karl, Steve Avory and Steve Gallen. He understands that David Joyes will be replaced as Chief Finance Officer when he leaves at the end of February.
He felt that it was advantageous that he was available to meet potential purchasers and give them input about the club. He could talk up the club with authority. He acknowledges to potential purchasers that there is currently a rift with supporters but can stress that there is great potential to win them back and that the protests are specific to Roland and that a new owner would be greeted with immense good will.
We are grateful to Richard for his time today. He has indicated his agreement to further similar meetings in future if that would be of use.
We would welcome comment on this from members and non-members via email@example.com