This is a story I was bursting to tell over the last week or so but obviously couldn’t because everything I was being told at the time was in confidence. It was further muddied because I was actually under an NDA talking to an intermediary of a potential investor with reference to the Aston Villa (at the time) crisis. That didn’t come of anything, so sadly I can take none of the reflected glory for those who have come to save our souls, well our club anyway, as this was a different group!!
Where was I?
Ah yes. I got an email the other week from a long time contact, a sometime poster on Vital Villa and an all-round good guy. Don Jones is his name, you’ll see him from time to time around Vital as DJ France
Contact has been made and have a call scheduled tomorrow morning. Understand you may still have an NDA but would appreciate a chat both to update you and request some advice. Can I call you later? If so, please advise when convenient and your phone number.
Contact on what I hear you all say?
Well, Don was a man with a plan. He had emailed me a week before asking if I was happy to talk over a thought he had to buy the contract of Jack Grealish, via subscriptions with all of us Villa fans, to save him being sold and to get funds into what was at the time a cash-strapped club. I had explained at the time I was in the middle of doing ‘bits and bobs’ consultancy wise (plus I’d just had an op to be fair!) but to give me a shout if he needed anything.
So Don rung and explained. I think – hope – I was some use, albeit I did apologise a few times as I felt my feedback was a bit ‘devils advocate’ and was giving the negatives. I did also say I saluted him for trying what he was and any fan for trying their best to stand up for their club and therefore, for all of us!
We spoke over the plan, my fear was the money if it could be raised would just delay the inevitable and also might bail out Xia and block any potential investments. DJ got that but also felt that Jack was absolutely central to any chance of Aston Villa having a shout at promotion this coming season.
I did also sound a few good contacts out, those I know with a few pennies and the feedback was on the negative side purely because no one wanted to be putting cash to Xia. Cash into Villa on the other hand, with a stable owner, maybe.
The plan was 30 000 subscriptions at £1000. Don knew a lot of fans wouldn’t have that sort of money and that the plan was in its infancy. But he did point out some of the richer and also higher profile fans might well be willing to put in several subscriptions.
Whether the plan was doable, whether the amount needed could be raised and whether there was a way around the 3rd party ownership of players were all, at this early stage, obviously up in the air but I did say I doubted the rules allowed it, albeit at times there appear to be ways around such issues. But I must say, how fantastic a fan was willing to put his time and effort into this and my goodness, after much work, he was able to get in contact directly with Tony Xia and the owner took Don’s call.
Some might say that was fantastic of Tony X, some might say he was just that desperate but top marks to DJ for his persistence. He was even considering flying out to Beijing to talk over the plan if it did gain momentum.
He was also so very obviously in this for Aston Villa, not himself, because he said to me in one email exchange: If you know of any other ideas going around and where the contacts I have set up could help – just let me know. The amount of self interest and bull I’ve come across over the years of the protests, the trying to set up a fan vehicle (to buy the shares from Doug, then later talking with Randy about doing similar) has been untrue. So DJ truly was a breath of fresh air and totally genuine in his love and support of Aston Villa.
The final update before the news broke that Villa had, in fact, found two billionaire investors was just last weekend:
– We (my Chinese friend Ke Wang & myself ) have had numerous contacts with Dr Tony over the last few days. We have also, at Tony’s request had contact with both Ho and Luke Organ who seems to acting as a temporary CEO.
– Dr Tony is due into London this evening for financial discussions Sunday & Monday. 4 or 5 different meetings if I understand correctly.
– Concerning the JG contract idea, the main difficulty and it is a major difficulty is the issue around TPO (Third Party Ownership). EPL rules, which are now underlined by FIFA regulations are designed to prevent any club not having total control over player contracts. I have had discussions with a specialist lawyer and also with Luke Organ at Villa. They both said that it would be difficult – hence not something that can be done quickly. We even looked at using the JG contract purely as a guarantee and the funds being transferred to equity later but even using the contract as a guarantee do not comply with the rules. Luke said that he would take it up with the EPL but, quite frankly, there is not much hope as we need more time.
– AVFC have a cashflow shortfall which starts at £2M on 22.07 and builds up to £8-9M at the end of this month. This is putting pressure on Dr Tony who needs quick solutions – not the best situation to be in when negotiating with Levy.
– AVFC Auditors are PWC who are also advising the management. Culture differences make it very difficult (in my opinion ) for Dr Tony to understand that an official auditor, as indeed Directors, have to act in the interests of creditors rather than shareholders when there is a possibility of financial problems.
– I received an invite to meet up with Ho and Dr T tomorrow in London if they had any spare time. I have politely suggested that, rather than me, they should meet my friend *** **** who has been looking at all this from a financial point of view. *** runs **** Associates and is very much a specialist on business turnarounds, based in the Midlands and also a Villa fan. As things stand at the moment, hopefully, Ho and **** will talk directly today in order to arrange a meeting. I believe that **** could well find other routes over and above those that PWC could suggest if only because of PWC’s obligations.
So there you go.
And now… well, I’ve done my bit (ok, I’ve done a silly spoof article!) telling Levy not to buy Jack
but the serious hope is that the new owners will either know already how important Jack could be, what awful timing it would be him leaving and maybe, just maybe, they can do something about it.
When I did my articles yesterday on the takeover, plus whilst looking on social media, the main questions seemed to be – does that mean we can keep Jack Grealish? I believe, from what a few have said, he does want to stay (it is second-hand talk that, but much like Gerrard at Liverpool, Jack is ‘one of us’). Can the new owner do anything about it? Will they realise the way Villa fans think about Super Jack? You can be sure Don will be doing all he can to let them know and I’ll do all I can to help.
That might lead to a call to action for Villa fans in some way although obviously, with them being new owners, we want to communicate not agitate on this.
I’m sure with their pedigree, they’ll see that the team should be built around him, he’s the best ‘product’ we’ve had out of the academy, certainly since Cahill, but probably ever. There-in lies the problem though, he is through the academy so all the money on a sale would count towards the FFP black hole. Let’s hope the new owners are savvy enough now to keep the players until January, assess the situation, and then decide.