Wigan Athletic future secure after takeover concluded

Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic FC has been rescued from administration after a takeover deal was finalised this evening (March 30).

Joint administrators, Begbies Traynor, confirmed in a statement that Middle East group Phoenix 2021 Limited is now the new owner of the League One side.

It said: “We are pleased to announce that the sale of the club and associated assets has been completed.

“We would like to thank all staff at the club, both past and present and on and off the field, who have worked tirelessly in keeping the club running during the challenging times faced with an unprecedented combination of administration and the severe financial impact of a global pandemic.”

They also hailed “various key players” who have assisted in the process, including Caroline Molyneux and Mick Wimsey from the Official Supporters Club, Paul McKevitt, Alison Mckenzie-Folan and David Molyneux from Wigan Council, Leam Richardson and Gregor Rioch and the English Football League

And they acknowledged the help from supporters who donated cash at the start of the administration last year, adding: “These funds allowed us to make crucial payments to allow the club to pay wages in the early part of the administration and also fulfil fixtures and finish the season. Now the sale has completed, we will be returning these monies to the Official Supporters’ Club.”

The statement also touched on the rocky process that saw the club relegated from the Championship last season and suffer several false dawns as prospective bidders have come and gone. It said: “We also understand the frustration and anger of the supporters caused by the club being placed into administration and the significant conflict between the role of the administrators and the wishes of the supporters.

“Unfortunately, in our role as administrators we have had to make difficult decisions which have been necessary to reduce costs and raise the necessary funds to pay football creditors and fund wages and other trading costs in a period when income has been limited due to the pandemic.

“We hope that these difficult decisions will be significant in the long term viability and history of the club.”

New chairman, Talal Mubarak Al Hammad, posted several tweets to Wigan fans this evening following confirmation of the takeover in which he said he wished for “a nice journey, a magnificent era, and I believe we need your support to achieve this and thank you for your support, your messages, for everything … up the Latics.”

In a statement released on the club’s website, he said: “This is the start of a new chapter in the history of Wigan Athletic. We feel extremely proud and happy at Phoenix 2021 Limited, in having completed the acquisition.

“Personally, I feel excited and happy to start this new challenge. When I read messages from the supporters, I automatically feel positive and optimistic about the club’s future. I thank all the fans who stood by the club, especially in the last nine months. Wigan Athletic fans are no different from a family standing together through thick and thin.

“As a group, we have been looking forward to this day for what seems an eternity. The day has now come and I must thank the Wigan Athletic Official Supporters’ Club and Wigan Council for their excellent support. Our communication has been extremely encouraging, as has the dialogue with our local MP, Lisa Nandy.

“Above all, the encouragement we have received from all Wigan Athletic supporters everywhere has been overwhelming and heartfelt, underlining that the decision to be part of Wigan Athletic’s future is the right one. The fans have stayed with the club through a very dark period and we will do all we can to make sure the future of the club is a much healthier and stable one.”

Wigan entered administration on July 1, last year, less than a month after being transferred to new ownership following the sale of the majority shareholdings of the Wigan Athletic Group from International Entertainment Corporation (IEC) to Hong Kong-based Next Leader Fund LP.

Within a week of the administration 50 inquiries had been lodged to buy the club, but after securing a preferred bidder the club was put back on the block after the preferred party failed to lodge the required paper work and funds for the bid to proceed.

The deadline for bids was extended, and on September 30, joint administrators announced they had chosen an offer from a Spanish group.

However, in early Janury this year the rescue fell at the final hurdle when the Spanish demanded a 50% reduction in the asking price at the very last minute.

In March, Bahrain-based Phoenix 2021 Limited, registered in Manchester, emerged as a potential bidder.

It is owned by Gibraltar firm Europa Point Sports and comprises a board of Wigan’s finance director Richard Bramwell, Mal Brannigan, Oliver Gottman, Thomas Markham and chairman Talal Mubarak Al Hammad. Abdulrahman Aljasmi Ubo is listed as a ‘person with significant control’.

On March 15, the takeover vehicle said it had agreed a deal to buy the League One side, reportedly worth £3m, which joint administrators Begbies Traynor described as a “siginficant step”.

A statement from the joint administrators said: “Contracts have been exchanged, a deposit has been received and it is envisaged that the sale will be completed by March 31, 2021 at the latest.

“The outstanding matters that need to be finalised to allow completion are practical matters around EFL (English Football League ) membership and property transfers.”

Begbies also confirmed that the sale allows for non-football creditors to be paid a minimum dividend of 25p in the £ which, under EFL rules, avoids a 15 point penalty deduction for the club, therefore improving the prospect of the Latics remaining in League One this season.