Thursday, 25th Feb 2021 15:56
Takeover talk has dominated the TWTD Forum and Town social media over the last few days but with little in the way of firm information yet having come to light. TWTD examines the gossip and conjecture.
Rumours of a potential takeover of Town had been quietly circulating for around a week before a Whatsapp message outlining the scenario went viral over the weekend.
The gist of the rumoured situation is that a US-based consortium is keen to buy the Blues from owner Marcus Evans.
A price of £40 million has been mentioned, which seems high for a club in Town’s situation in League One, and we understand £30 million is a more realistic figure.
The rumours suggest the group’s overall plan is to buy the club, inject cash to get it into a better position before selling it on again at a profit.
Current Bristol City chief executive Mark Ashton is variously claimed to be leading or playing some part in facilitating the takeover. Ashton’s alleged involvement in any way is unconfirmed and he is continuing his job at Bristol City, commenting on new manager Nigel Pearson’s appointment earlier in the week.
Ashton has worked at a number of clubs over the years. Prior to joining the Robins in January 2016, he was at Oxford United for 18 months from 2014 and with Watford between 2004 and 2008, having previously been a director at West Brom for 14 years.
Bristol City’s 2019 pre-season tour of the US has also been the subject of speculation among Robins fans, Ashton and owner Steve Lansdown having met with owners of USL clubs among others while on the trip.
On Tuesday night it was spotted that Brett Johnson, who recently became the owner of USL League One side FC Tucson, having been a founder of USL Championship club Phoenix Rising where ex-Blues full-back Frank Yallop was formerly president of soccer/head coach, is following Town’s official Twitter account and later liked a tweet showing the Blues’ goal at Hull.
In addition to Town, the 51-year-old follows Bristol City, as well as a number of other British clubs, including Salford City, Newcastle United, Swansea City and QPR.
Johnson is the founder of Fortuitous Partners and is also the leading figure in a USL Championship franchise which is set to launch in Rhode Island in 2023 and recently joined the board of Danish side Helsingør.
In July last year a company called Gamechanger 20 Ltd was registered at Companies House with Johnson among the directors, along with Mike O’Leary, who was part of the takeover at Oxford in 2014 which was led by Ashton.
Also among the directors is Berke Bakay, principal owner, governor and co-chairman of Phoenix Rising, who made his money from Kona Grill, a restaurant chain.
Speaking in January, Los Angeles-based Johnson said his organisation was “fairly close to making an investment in England”.
TWTD understands that there is certainly something in the claims of current interest in the club although with the personnel involved unconfirmed, while Town are yet to comment on the rumours.
Evans, who took control at Town in 2007, has said in the past that if an acceptable offer came in, he would be prepared to sell.
A number of parties have shown interest over the years, several in the recent past, but up to now with none having made much progress.
Photo: Matchday Images
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