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Tangerine dreams of a takeover may be coming true

Tangerine dreams of a takeover may be coming true
© Reuters
Finance expert provides proof of funds to raise hopes of successful bid for Blackpool.

Football finance specialist Terry Pritchard is the man behind a Paul Stewart-fronted consortium trying to buy Blackpool from current owner Owen Oyston.

The Tangerines have been on the market for more than a year and is currently losing about £2million a season, mainly because a large section of Blackpool's supporters have been boycotting the club since 2016 in an attempt to force 85-year-old Oyston to sell.

The Mirror newspaper reported on Saturday that former England player Stewart, who started his career at Blackpool and still lives in the area, has been approached by a consortium of businessmen to lead their takeover bid, with a "commercial finance firm" providing the funding.

Manchester City Photocall – Paul Stewart – Maine Road
Paul Stewart left Blackpool for Manchester City in 1987 (PA)

Press Association Sport can now reveal that firm is Charter House Corporate Partners, the London-based lending specialist Pritchard set up in 2016.

The 54-year-old has a long track record in football, having helped to finance takeovers at Bolton, Portsmouth and Sheffield Wednesday, as well as working with AFC Wimbledon on their new Plough Lane stadium.

Speaking to Press Association Sport, Pritchard said this particular takeover attempt "is in its infancy" and admitted he has been aware of several previous attempts to buy Blackpool from Oyston.

Exeter City v Blackpool – Sky Bet League Two – Play Off – Final – Wembley Stadium
Blackpool's owner is Owen Oyston, pictured here in the orange jacket (Mike Egerton/PA)

But he said this consortium is "interesting because they have credibility, knowledge of the club and seem to have the ear of Valeri Belokon", the Latvian banker who was Blackpool's co-owner and chairman during the club's rise to the Premier League. They are now in League One.

Belokon is crucial to any solution to Blackpool's problems, as he is still owed £25million by Oyston, following their bitter legal dispute over what happened to the club's Premier League windfall.

Having fallen out with Owen Oyston and his son Karl, the club's ex-chief executive, when he discovered they had paid themselves huge bonuses and salaries after Blackpool's sole season in the top flight in 2010/11, Belokon took the pair to court and won.

Blackpool FC court case
Valeri Belokon is still owed money (John Stillwell/PA)

The court decided he was owed £35million in November 2017 and, so far, the Oystons have only paid £10million of that sum, having missed several deadlines for the rest.

Belokon could have asked for a court order to seize Blackpool at almost any point in the last year but has chosen not to until now, as his lawyers have a court date next month to discuss the appointment of a receiver to sell the Oystons' assets.

It is unclear, though, if he will proceed with this course of action, because he would not currently pass the English Football League's Owners' and Directors' Test, owing to a money-laundering and tax evasion conviction he received in Kyrgyzstan in 2017.

Blackpool v Arsenal – Emirates FA Cup – Third Round – Bloomfield Road
Blackpool fans have protested about the ownership of Owen Oyston (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Belokon, who has not responded to PA's attempts to contact him, has always denied those charges, saying the prosecution was politically motivated, but there have been no updates on his attempts to persuade the EFL that his conviction should be ignored.

This has hugely complicated the situation at Blackpool but Pritchard believes there is a way out.

"They are not a lost cause at all – I have seen clubs in far worse financial positions," said Pritchard.

"Blackpool are worth £10-12million and there is no reason why it can't become a good investment, providing you get the gates back up again and you use the stadium and its hotel better, with concerts and other sports events.

"The key is to come up with a package that will give Belokon something up front but also an annual dividend going forward. I think he wants to stay involved with the club but not in a hands-on way and I suspect the EFL would allow that.

"I don't know if the deal will come off, Owen Oyston is still a factor, but I have provided the consortium with proof of funds and they are definitely talking to Belokon."

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