Anderson Apology to Town
Saturday, 14th Jan 2006 00:37
New investor Michael Anderson says he regrets not revealing to Town his previous associations in football and has apologised.
The Florida-based businessman insists he did nothing wrong during these spells and was not at Kettering during their administration or at Aldershot when they dropped out of the league.
Anderson released a personal statement after news of his previous involvement in football broke earlier today: "I was asked on a number of occasions if I have been involved in football. I did not reveal my brief association with either Aldershot or Kettering because of embarrassment.
"I didn't want it to jeopardise my position with Ipswich Town. I would like to stress that I have done nothing wrong at these other clubs. Rather, I have personally ended up losing money.
"Of course I regret not having mentioned this. I apologise for any embarrassment caused to David, Derek, the board and the fans. This was never my intent. I love football and felt very privileged to have been asked to join the ITFC board.
"For the avoidance of doubt, I would like to clarify my position regarding my brief involvement with Aldershot and Kettering.
"In the instance of Aldershot, having followed the fortunes of the club during the early 90s, I approached their chairman and offered to help them. However, after a few months, during which I personally financed the player wages and covered the rent of the ground, following a disagreement with fellow directors over the future of the club, I severed my connections, withdrew my funding and called in the police to investigate the irregularities I uncovered.
"With regard to Kettering Town, following a contact made whilst at Aldershot, I was asked if I would be interested in getting involved with Kettering. In reality my involvement lasted just a number of weeks. Although flattered to be initially asked to join the board, it soon became apparent that all was not well and again I severed my connection with them.
"So in total my involvement previously in football was brief and personally disappointing and not without considerable personal expense. And there has never been any suggestion of my being involved in any wrongdoing.
"I have not changed my position with regard to my financial commitments to ITFC. I am a supporter, albeit of late a long-distance supporter from the US and Dubai. I look forward to seeing the club benefit from this investment in the future."
TWTD was amongst a number of media organisations invited to speak to Anderson and his business associate Brian Green this afternoon. We asked him to fill in a bit more detail on his time at his previous clubs: "At Aldershot I started as chair but left the chair and stayed on as a director, in 91/92, and left due to differences.
"I was acting chairman at Kettering but a former director Jim Lynch was chairman when they went into administration."
Anderson, who wouldn't confirm whether his investment in Town is £500,000 as we believe, explained his use of the name Michael Boxted in his business dealings: "I acquired the lordship of the manor of Boxted some years ago. It works very well in America. I use both names."
The Tampa resident says his links with Lisa St Peter, currently awaiting sentencing in the US on 112 charges of systematic and deliberate fraud and tax evasion, are minimal: "I've never actually been involved in a company with her. We were going to buy a pharmacy in central Florida and formed a company between myself and Lisa but it didn't come off."
Brian Green continued: "The company was formed with a view to a joint venture. In the final event the joint venture didn't occur and the company has remained dormant every since."
Green explained how their various businesses are interlinked: "Flairford is the holding company. The online pharmacy is only part of the business. The big pharmacy fulfils the online business, we fulfil assisted living facilities and nursing homes. It's a bona fide pharmaceutical operation. We're just opening another pharmacy now.
"The medical business works totally differently over there," Green added. "We do business with Medicaid and Medicare, the Government, and we've applied to be accredited as one of only 14 registered online pharmacies in the whole of the US. All the other 13 are big corporate names, the equivalent of Boots.
"You don't just open a pharmacy, you have to be licensed. We employ 100 people, it's a very successful business, hence Mike is in a position to be able to consider investing in his first love, which is football."
Anderson, originally a Londoner, was already in Florida when he moved into the pharmaceutical industry, and set up a youth football academy with the former Manchester United player Gordon Hill, a friend, in the mid-nineties. Communications, specifically fax and telex, was his business prior to the pharmaceutical trade.
As non-UK resident he is only allowed to spend a certain amount of time in Britain for tax reasons and says that for the time being he will still live in Tampa, even if he does, as he still hopes, become a director of Ipswich Town.
Anderson's initial offer to Town was a greater stake in the club than the current 15% with two places on the board in return for his investment. The Blues would only commit to the smaller percentage at first with further involvement in the club considered at a later stage. The 52-year-old says all being well that he would still like to put more money into the club.
He says he has been a keen observer of Town's fortunes while overseas: "I've watched the results for a long time. I can't say more than that because most of the time I'm abroad.
"I first came to Ipswich to see them play Chelsea. I enjoyed the game, Ipswich lost but it was a good game.
"I'd loved the club for years before that, what's the name of your site, Those Were The Days? Those were the days, they were good team to watch under Bobby Robson."
He conceded he made a mistake in not revealing his previous associations with football clubs: "Hindsight's a wonderful thing, I made a grave error of judgement in not mentioning my past connections with Kettering Town and with Aldershot. I've embarrassed the club, I've embarrassed myself, I've embarrassed supporters, I've embarrassed the board and for that I'm very, very sorry."
Town chairman David Sheepshanks and chief executive Derek Bowden met the media later in the afternoon. The chairman outlined the club's current position with regard to Anderson: "Two months ago Michael Anderson approached us with an interest to invest. We had extensive interviews and meetings with him, Derek and myself initially, and during that time direct questions were asked of him, both specifically with regard to any past involvement in football and with regard to any other disclosures that he would need to make.
"We also emphasised to him the special nature of football appointments and the fact that anyone appointed to any board is subject to intense scrutiny and that he should be absolutely aware of that and that we needed to know anything which could be possibly be discovered or disclosed later. As you have heard, I'm afraid the facts were not forthcoming.
"We have undertaken legal and accountancy searches and references from which we had a clean bill of health and we had evidence of genuine wealth. We have to say that we have also undertaken Internet searches but quite clearly we didn't pursue these far enough, given what we know now.
"The reason for that was that until that point we had no reason to doubt him; we had asked all these questions, we had the references, we had everything else, so we weren't working from a distrust point of view.
"He also read, signed and accepted a certified fit and proper persons test which is fairly comprehensive. This was introduced by the Football League board, of which I'm a part, last year. This doesn't take account of involvement with football clubs going back beyond last July because it was only brought in for the present going forward.
"But it does take account of a whole raft of criminal offences or involvements in the past. Given the number of steps taken and checks and references and so forth, the board considered the investment.
"We've all met him on a number of occasions and our view was to be circumspect. He wanted to invest more, considerably more [15% in shares plus more in loan notes without any conversion rights] and he wanted to have two board seats. We decided against that and decided to proceed on a 'getting to know you' basis and we offered him the opportunity to invest a lower amount."
Sheepshanks said that a number of names had been discussed for the second place on the board, although Brian Green wasn't one of those mentioned.
The chairman says the two sides have settled on a way forward with Anderson's money remaining in the club at present: "He has agreed, and we have insisted, that he will not be a director. And for the sake of propriety we have informed him today that the offer of a directorship has been withdrawn.
"We will continue to investigate the facts and will consider the position going forward in light of those. His money is invested, although as yet we have not issued the share certificates and we will consider the appropriateness of that as a board in the light of whatever may or may not be revealed in the coming days and weeks."
Sheepshanks says that if Anderson's previous links with football clubs been known sooner Town would have taken a different course of action: "Had we discovered earlier, the matter would have been treated differently. We would have established further whether there were any wrongdoings.
"It is important to make the point now that he continues to insist that there are no wrongdoings on his part [both within his football and non-football dealings] and, as I can see it, we are talking entirely about association and innuendo with, admittedly, undesirable incidents and individuals. Nothing is proven in any respect regarding any wrongdoings on his part.
"We have taken the action that we have today in the light of what we do know. At the end of the day, the integrity of the board and the reputation of the board is absolutely paramount.
"In conclusion, I would say the whole episode is thoroughly upsetting and annoying but we have taken action, better late than never, you may say. Was it avoidable? That's harder to say, how far do you go in terms of your research when there is nothing to suggest that there is any lack of trust.
"Knowing what we know now it is very easy to say that the research should have gone further and that maybe going forward we ought to have some independent accountant research the background of any future director. This is not an imprudent board in that respect, there are very careful people around the table who ask careful questions.
"As I said, we have taken references, we have made checks, we simply haven't gone further and the reason we haven't gone further is that we've been misled.
"Whether maliciously or not, we have been misled and we have been too trusting. I suppose nothing should surprise us in this game but I would remind you that we are discerning in the people we want to see admitted to this board and this club."
Sheepshanks was swift to reiterate that there is no evidence that Anderson has done anything wrong other than failing to disclose his previous links: "There is an awful lot of 'guilty until proven innocent' going on at the moment and I think one should be fair to him.
"He has apologised profusely to me, Derek and the rest of the board for any embarrassment caused through him not disclosing these past associations when he was directly asked about them. That is the crux of it because that is where it started.
"We have withdrawn the offer of a directorship for now. I think you have to take it that the board will consider what may or may not come to light very carefully. But no final decision has been made in this respect.
"When he came here he was very enthusiastic, he's conducted himself entirely properly throughout our meetings and has given us no cause for concern in that respect. It may look as though we have been gullible today, but it's not all that meets the eye."
Sheepshanks says that Anderson, who he believes has been looking to invest in a football club for some while, is friendly with a number of Town supporters and that it was they who persuaded him to approach the club with regard to an investment.
The Football League's fit and proper persons test has been widely criticised for its lack of stringency and Sheepshanks says he knows that it is complex from a legal standpoint: "I am aware of the legal intricacies regarding what you can and cannot make stick. You can only try and put in sufficient safeguards to try and ensure that those we don't want in the game are not admitted. That is the purpose of the test.
"It is very new. It may well be that this shows that it needs to be more rigorous, but, perhaps more to the point, maybe there needs to be a more comprehensive central register or some sort of system whereby you can tune in and check things out. That doesn't exist at the moment."
Derek Bowden says that Anderson is confident he will pass a fit and proper persons test: "We don't know that Michael can't tick all the boxes on a fit and proper persons test. He's signed it and read it. He says he can meet them all and does meet them all."
The investment by Michael Anderson was not the only extra cash coming into the club this week. Two existing shareholders who we understand to be board member Holly Bellingham and Michael Spencer, the largest investor at the share issue, have increased their stakes in the club.
Town also received confirmation from their three biggest lenders, Norwich Union, Barclays and the Bank of Scotland, that they have agreed to a restructuring of the club's debt.
The agreement doesn't allow the club to disclose the details but TWTD understands that one significant element is a very substantial reduction in the interest the club pays on the Norwich Union bond over the next two years with Town's annual position improved by around £2 million.
Sheepshanks says the club are keen to add more investment with the agreement with the lenders making the club a more attractive proposition: "Going forward we now want to further improve the funding of the club by attracting more investment.
"We're taking soundings on a new share issue and we will be holding meetings with shareholders and loan note holders and will be inviting all shareholders and supporters to write to us to give us their views in order to assess the appetite and the interest in a further share issue.
"It becomes much more interesting and much more possible given this new arrangement with the lenders and given the new investment in the club. It is a much brighter picture financially, it's just unfortunate that today has cast a shadow.
"I'm feeling a mixture of emotions today: I'm angry, I'm embarrassed, I'm fed up and I'm terribly sad about the whole thing, as it started off as a cracking week. And I'm hoping that on Saturday we'll have a cracking end to it."
Photo: Action Images
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