Preferred bidder selected to rescue Wigan Athletic

Gerald Krasner at Wigan's DW Stadium

The joint administrators of Wigan Athletic FC have chosen a preferred bidder for the club and are hopeful a deal can be sealed by noon tomorrow (July 23).

They also believe they will be able to pay the £6m owed to football creditors, and avoid a 15-point fine that could be levied next season if they fail to pay what is owed.

In an online press conference this afternoon (July 22) the joint administrators from Begbies Traynor said they are hopeful of a deal to save the club, after it was placed into administration by its Hong Kong owners on July 1.

Joint administrator Gerald Krasner said: “All is not lost. We are further forward than we were.”

He said at the outset he expected to receive around 30 expressions of interest and maybe three bids.

He revealed that his team sent out 64 non-disclosure agreements to interested parties.

And while the majority of these were not returned, they did receive six replies with proof of funds to proceed with a bid for the Championship club.

Five were considered by the joint administrators, and after a 40-minute Zoom call yesterday they chose one preferred bidder.

Mr Krasner said it was the highest bid, and one, which he feels is in the best interests of the club.

The preferred bidder, which will remain anonymous until the deal is finalised, now has until 12 noon tomorrow to return paperwork to the administrators to seal the deal.

That includes them forwarding the necessary funds to their solicitor’s account for the proposed takeover.

It is hoped contracts can be exchanged by July 31, when the deal will go to the English Football League (EFL) for ratification, which could take at least three weeks.

Mr Krasner said: “I am optimistic that a deal will be done and football will continue here and all creditors will be paid in full.”

By settling debts with the unsecured creditors, the club would avoid a potential 15-point deduction next season.

It already faces a 12-point deduction this season for entering administration.

Tonight’s final league game of the season is against promotion hopefuls Fulham. If Wigan win, and other results go their way, the side could secure Championship football for its new owners next season.

The prize, Mr Krasner revealed, is a £6m difference in TV payments between The Championship and League One.

Joint administrators have lodged an appeal to the EFL over the 12-point deduction based on the special grounds of Wigan’s owners blaming the coronavirus outbreak for pulling the plug on all funding for the club.

However, even if Wigan wins the appeal which is due to be held on July 31, under current league rules, it would have to pay the EFL’s legal costs, as well as its own, which would amount to £500,000.

Mr Krasner said: “That’s a lot of money and perhaps it is time these rules were re-looked at.”

He also revealed that the former owner, Mr Au Yeung Wai Kay, has agreed to attend a Zoom meeting with him some time this month, as part of the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the administration.

As part of the day-to-day running of the club, the administrators have had to make 75 redundancies to conserve cash resources to complete Wigan’s Championship fixtures.

The supporters’ club has raised £165,000 to help pay some costs, such as team travel and accommodation for away games.

Mr Krasner also revealed that one player has already been sold, two more deals are expected to complete this week, and further player sales might be necessary to help raise much-needed funds.

However, the joint administrators confirmed that they have managed to pay all wages at the club for June, while the salary bill for July will be included in the £6m owing to football creditors.

Mr Krasner paid tribute to everyone who has helped to try to keep the club afloat in such trying circumstances: “I would like to thank the supporters’ club, the council and all the people of Wigan who have shown support and everybody at the club.”

He also praised the team and manager who have achieved a string of impressive results in a bid to pull clear of the 12-point penalty and all that involves, including an historic 8-0 victory over strugglers Hull City.

He said: “I would like to pay tribute to the team who have continued to play exceptional football. They’re playing for the pride of the club which is why they have had the results they have had. All credit to the team and the manager.”