U's chairman aims for 100% ownership

COLCHESTER United's chairman has told fans they will still have “some involvement” in the club after it emerged he was taking 100% ownership by invoking a compulsory purchase of all shares.

James Hore

COLCHESTER United's chairman has told fans they will still have “some involvement” in the club after it emerged he was taking 100% ownership by invoking a compulsory purchase of all shares.

Robbie Cowling, who is already majority shareholder, announced the move which will see his company buyback more than 35,000 shares, valued at 50p each.

Although those shares represent only a tiny fraction of the total value of the League One club, it means there will no longer be any requirement for the Us to hold an annual general meeting with fans.


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Mr Cowling, who launched a voluntary buyback last year, said there were now a large number of small shareholders remaining which he said created a “significant” administration cost.

His company, Aspire Media Group Ltd, formerly Jobserve Holdings Ltd, is now serving notice on all the remaining shareholders.

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Mr Cowling said he would now be looking at new ways to give the supporters a voice and it is understood the club will hold a series of “fan forums” where the chairman and manager can be quizzed.

He said: “I understand that some fans will be passionate about their share holdings no matter how few they hold and regardless as to whether they have any value, which they are unlikely to have once this offer passes, or any control, which they don't.

“Of course I have to do what is best for the club and that is to buy the remaining shares. However, I want to respect the holders of those shares and still give them some involvement.

“I am considering ways of doing this and will issue a further statement in due course.”

Mr Cowling, who bought the club from Peter Heard in September 2006, claimed the action had been taken as part of an agreement made when he became majority shareholder.

“As supporters are aware, Aspire already held a majority shareholding and already had a controlling interest in the club and acquiring the additional shares was not something I desired but Peter Heard quite rightly wanted the other shareholders to have the same opportunities as he had to sell their shares too.

“Because the other shareholders all held a minority shareholding I believed that they held them primarily for sentimental reasons and thus I did not expect many of them to accept my offer.

“However, the holders of 565,193 shares have accepted the offer and I have sent these shareholders their cheques totalling nearly �300,000.00

“This has left me with a dilemma as to what to do about the remaining 35,318 Shares.

“As such a high percentage of the shareholders have chosen to accept the offer to sell Aspire now has the option to buy all of the remaining shares.”

More than 565,000 of the A-category shares, which hold voting power, have been sold back to Mr Cowling by fans since his offer was made in November, leaving the 35,000 remaining.

Mr Cowling said there was no need for any shareholder to respond and cheques would be automatically sent out in about eight weeks time.

Last night Bob Russell, Colchester MP, said he would not have pushed for the new stadium in parliament if he had known the direction the club was going off the pitch

He said: “In reality, for the day to day operation of the club, this means absolutely nothing, however, there will no longer be the public annual reports and we will no longer, as fans, know what is going on inside the club.

“There will be no need for an AGM and no need to answer shareholders questions.

“Interestingly, what Mr Cowling is doing flies completely in the face of what is happening around the country where fans are being encouraged to take a greater ownership and roles in their clubs.”

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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