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Touching the void.

Ken Bates’ departure is far from certain. As many have pointed out :-

A)    He’s an obstinate individual who enjoys going to court

B)    He’s an obstinate individual who enjoys going to court

C)     He’s an obstinate individual who enjoys going to court

Add to that the fact that Russian Oligarchs and DotCom Billionaires are thin on the ground, even moreso now than in the good times of 2005.. and you do tend to give credence to the doom mongers who see no future other than with Ken at the helm of the leaky ship. Lack of investment in the team, a continued drain of talent, and total disregard for the view of the fans.. the prognosis isn’t good.

The other point that gets raised is one of the more difficult ones – What happens when Ken erm.. Expires. Well it happens to us all, as difficult a point to talk about as it is. The answer is quite complex. And yes somewhat morbid to discuss, but I think it bears investigation. And bear with me as a non-expert in probate law.

The nub of the answer is relative to the ownership structure in place. Ken Bates – according to the press is the majority shareholder and owner of the club. If that is a simple equation, and hes really just the guy who owns the business – then on his expiry the club ownership passes to the executors of his estate.

If Ken is a petty sod, he could have gone as far in his will as to divvy up the club, and liquidate its assets to remunerate the beneficiaries of his will. More likely though as a businessman I’m sure Ken would understand the inherent value of the business and ensure its maximum value is realised either via passing ownership to his Wife or Children most likely.

There are 2 recent examples we should pay attention to

  1. Southampton FC. Southampton was rescued from administration by a Group `controlled and owned’ by Markus Liebherr in July 2009. He of course died in March 2010, but it was announced the following August that plans had been made to assure the long term security of the club. It ostensibly then continues to be run by those in charge of the vehicle he created to run the business – and a good stick theyre making of it too.
  2. Marseilles – In 1996 after some years in the wilderness (or should that be the maquis?) Marseilles shed their UEFA imposed punishment and returned to Ligue 1, backed by Adidas owner Robert-Louis Dreyfus, they were soon mixing it in the Champions League, and spending vast sums of money on players. Louis Dreyfus by trade was a corporate turnaround expert, cognisant of good business practice, Marseilles remain profitable based on the principles he set out. Sadly for the Provencales he lost a long battle with Leukaemia in October 2009, and like Liebherr died at the tragically young age of 63. In this instance the ownership of his shares passed to His wife, Margarita. A former Russian Businesswoman some 20 years his junior.

Her tenure has been `colourful’ to date, sacking the chairman in October last year, and lambasting the players. (sound familiar)… She shows no signs of moving on. Given the proximity of Marseilles to Monaco, one wonders if she’s attending personal seminars in football club chairmanship delivered by our own irascible scamp of a chairman? If she starts striking `vampire’ poses outside the Stade Olympique – Marseilles fans better get worried.

I can’t imagine Ken or a minute would put his own personal fortune at risk, so albeit this is guesswork – I’m going for something like Option 1 as the most likely avenue we’d end up going down, with Harvey appointed as the `trustee’ to run the business.

I can’t see Mrs Bates as our chairwoman, though judging by her obvious vast reserves of patience and good grace I can’t imagine she would be too bad a bet! The other interesting trend I’ve noticed is simply that both Louis Dreyfus, and as per my article yesterday Doug Ellis, both started `putting their affairs in order’ when they realised their health might not enable them to carry out their duties.

Obviously I and the rest of us just want Leeds to be sold to someone else, and wish our Kenneth many more years of well, `Rude’ health. 10 More Years , 10 More Years.

Written by Matthew Brown-Bolton

Picture Credit: Alex Knight Photography