So the battle is won – and now for the peace? As you know, the frantic and fractious 4 hour meeting at Stamford Bridge to vote on CFC’s proposal to buy back the freehold of the pitch was eventually rejected by shareholders. The joy was limitless!
One man and his dog actually did turn out in their hundreds as hoped and prayed, to the extent that the meeting had to be moved to ‘the Great Hall’ – so badly had the club misread the level of attendance (amongst many other things). It genuinely warmed my heart to see so many shareholders turn out on a working day to pour scorn on Bruce Buck, Ron Gourlay and Richard King, for their poorly thought out and insulting offer – relentlessly one after the other, in an articulate passionate argument.
It seems few ‘ordinary’ shareholders with one or two certificates dating back a decade or more were prepared to swallow the ‘just trust us’ pill offered by Bruce Buck, particularly in light of his recent unsavoury antics in the press concerning telephone messages left trying to get a troublesome ‘SAY NO’ campaigner silenced. Nor were people impressed by the revelations that he bought 100 shares after the proposal was formulated for the voting rights – and clearly saw nothing wrong with that!
The final figures are deceptive – as they usually are in votes – and need cool analysis to tell the full story. On the face of it the club would have you believe it was a close run thing by achieving 62% of the 75% required for acceptance, but that’s not the full picture. Of the 3,569 shares supporting the proposal, at least 2,000 are reputed to have been bought by 20 ‘YES’ voters buying 100 shares each after the proposal was announced. If this does turn out to be proved correct (it is being investigated as we speak by journalists and lawyers), then the true ‘yes’ percentage falls to just 41% of the overall vote.
Further, the Electoral Reform Group conducting the vote were privately appalled by the poor level of accuracy of the shareholders register – with only around a third of shareholders subsequently voting due to out-of-date details. The minimum legal notice period given by CPO not only enraged shareholders convinced the club and CPO board were ‘trying to pull a fast one’, but also meant a lack of time to contact oversees voters, meaning they were mostly disenfranchised – one shareholder from Vancouver making the trip to vote personally, reporting bitterly that several of his acquaintances were understandably unable to!
There were also a number of cases of proxy votes being ‘lost’ somewhere within the system, including some of my own – even some that had been hand delivered down to the laughable new head office in Addlestone (above a commercial unit) – not very salubrious, but conveniently remote! I should add – my gratitude goes out to all those CFCnet readers who entrusted me with their proxy.
So where do things go from here? Well it’s far from settled.
Bruce Buck has to go before Mr Abramovich and explain why he has not delivered £700m of prime real estate to him for just £10m (rather him than me – his track record is not kind towards failures). Richard King must surely contemplate his future, having had numerous calls for his resignation from the floor, based on accusations ranging from incompetency to collusion, and everything in between.
An AGM has to be called before December with at least another 3 weeks’ notice given, accounts have also to be filed before then (which should make very interesting reading), and the renewal of the 10 year rolling extension to the loan has to be put in place before December 14th, otherwise CFC can cry default and tear up the agreement!
So all plain sailing from here on in then? No, watch this space because although the battle of Stamford Bridge was won, anyone who knows their history will know it was followed shortly after by the battle of Hastings! Watch out for those stray arrows!