Rochdale fans have been dealt with very worrying news over the club’s future with reports confirming an update of an prospective investor.
Manchester Evening News state that former Charlton Athletic chairman Matthew Southall has struck a deal to buy a 25 per cent stake in the League Two outfit.
Mr Southall is said to be acquiring his shares from Andy Curran and Darrel Rose’s Morton House MGT group, whose bid to take over the club collapsed several weeks ago.
The MEN understands that Southall was approached by an intermediary on behalf of Morton House, who were looking to off-load the 42% of shares in Rochdale acquired when the group was attempting to take control of the Crown Oil Arena club.
Mr Southall left the Addicks last year in controversial circumstances and now lives in Dubai but also has a home in Worsley and a wife who attended Bury Grammar School. He has declined to comment.
His input comes as the club are set to issue new shares to fans and new investors in an attempt to protect the club from falling prey to any new takeover bids.
Stakeholders have been invited to an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on Wednesday next week (October 6), where nearly £200,000 worth of shares (397,043) will be available at about £2 each.
Current Rochdale chairman Simon Gauge said the aim of the share issue was to dilute Morton House’s share ownership from 42% to below the 30% threshold to comply with EFL rules.
Mr Gauge said he wants to protect the fan-owned club from future takeover bids by issuing new shares for existing shareholders, directors and ‘new people who want to invest in the club’ – possibly season ticket holders.
He said: “I will not be speaking to Mr Southall and he will not be allowed to attend the EGM.
“If he buys 25 per cent of shares from Morton House, he could up with a much lesser stake after other supporters, directors and shareholders have bought the additional shares, but that is his business.”
DALE SUPPORTERS TRUST STATEMENT
The Trust met with prospective investor Matt Southall on Wednesday evening in an hour long Zoom meeting to discuss his thoughts on Dale, whilst sharing our own views on the prospect of him getting involved at Dale.
Southall began by stating that he was contacted by Alexander Jarvis on behalf of Morton House with a view to a purchase of the shares. He said that he had known Jarvis for a few years and the pair had worked together before including at Charlton. Jarvis had told him that he had a deal that had “gone wrong” that might be of interest Southall.
He said that coming from Worsley, he had known Rochdale for a long time. His best friend was former Dale player Ben Kitchen, and his wife’s best friend was the fiancée of Matt Lund. He said that if he didn’t have connections to the club or come from the area, he wouldn’t be interested at all.
Southall said that the deal was purely as an investment, and nothing more than that, adding that he had no intentions of taking over. He said he was aware that there was a legal case surrounding the shares of Andrew Kelly, and should that go in the favour of Morton House, then there is another discussion to be had because he will have an option to purchase those shares but from his own legal advice, that could be a long way off.
He stated that there were no disqualifying circumstances that prevented him being an owner or director in terms of the EFL, but it wasn’t his intention to bring anything to the club or even sit on the Board. He didn’t want to be walking into a hostile atmosphere, and in fact he didn’t want to be attending games, just watching them on a stream from afar.
He stated that both Morton House and himself would be opposed to any share issue by the club.
We pushed him about the potential of his investment, and the lack of any potential return on that investment. He stated that Morton House had valued the club at £5m, but from his knowledge of football, if the Club could be promoted to League One it would be worth in the region of £6m to 8m. He cited the case of another League One club that he was offered at £10m that didn’t even own its own ground. He said that he’d be looking to sell those shares at a stage to give him a return on his investment. He said any questions about the value of the investment would come down to his judgement.
We said to Southall that Andrew Curran had caused a lot of concern to both the fanbase and shareholders due to his lack of digital footprint that had led to supporters making their own minds up. We put it to him that anyone spending ten minutes googling Matt Southall would be presented with horror stories from his time in football notably at Charlton Athletic. Southall admitted there were horror stories but claimed that he left Charlton in a better position than it is in now.
He stated a number of times throughout the hour long zoom call that this was a deal between himself and Morton House, and that no other approach had been made for the shares. He stated that they’d expected offers to have come in either from the Club or from the Trust, but nothing had been forthcoming. He said on numerous occasions that if the Club or Trust could raise the money for the shares, it would be a different matter.
We responded by telling Southall that this was not the case and he was fully aware of that. We had enquired about the shares to Jarvis who told us that he was no longer representing Morton House. This private email between ourselves and Jarvis had appeared in the email trail in the email sent out by Southall’s PA to us when requesting this meeting proving that Southall was aware of our interest on the Morton House shares.
He stated that he did not know the finances of the club but repeatedly questioned whether we were sustainable as a club, stating that loans were taken out last year due to Covid, there was an expected shortall of £800,000 (we stated this had already been covered by player sales) and just 2,000 season tickets had been sold. He stated fan ownership would need more than just money for the shares, but an annual commitment to the Club.
We stated that we at Rochdale are a very unique football club. The ownership structure that we have has led us to our most successful spell in the Club’s history without going into debt, whilst the majority of our peers had fallen into administration at one time or another. We said that what we have at Rochdale works and has worked for a very long time.
We stated that there was not the interest amongst the fanbase or the shareholders for Southall to come in either as an investor or as an owner, and that if he was to do so, he would be walking into a hostile situation. This was witnessed with the stance of supporters against Curran and Rose in the Summer, and it would be exactly the same now.
Southall stated that in his experience those supporters would return under his ownership, and that any hostile environment wouldn’t put him off or influence his decision to do the deal.
Southall made a point about the lack of season ticket holders at Rochdale, stating how Stockport County averaged 5,000 season ticket holders in the National League, and this showed why an investor was required. We retorted by saying that this actually proved the opposite of his point that we have for over ten years operated at a level above Stockport, and that showed that our model of club ownership worked and the importance of doing things properly.
He said that the shares that Morton House had purchased went through on 1st July, and they had the legal entitlement on those shares since that date even though they have not been processed by the Club as of yet. He said all previous owners had been paid in full for those shares with the exception of one who has a staged transaction, and Southall had seen evidence of this. He said this meant that there was nothing legally preventing him taking control of those shares, and there was no need for the EFL to approve the deal as it was below 30%.
He said the shareholding owned by Morton House without EFL approval would ultimately lead to punishments for the Club. He told us how the EFL don’t mess about with things like this and it could lead to a large fine and/or points deductions for the Club.
He asked how we would feel had he owned the Club, and then in twelve months’ time he’d not took a penny out of the Club and everything was running well. We stated this was a gamble that our shareholders would not be prepared to take, especially to someone with his track record in Football. He replied saying that it wasn’t his track record, but it was a perception of things that had been written about him.
We followed up stating that it wasn’t even just about him – it was about being happy with the model of ownership that we have. We said that because of this, we were probably one of the most sustainable clubs in the country and doing it our way had led to the most successful time in our history.
– STATEMENT ENDS –
Twitter users reacted as Rochdale fans are dealt with very worrying news over club’s future…
@shirty_cafc: “Southall admitted there were horror stories but claimed that he left Charlton in a better position than it is in now.” You ask any Charlton fan whether they’d rather be where we are now or have Southall involved. Poison to football.
@natediazisking: Hard to argue lets look at the facts:
Range rovers purchased with clubs money under Southall: 11
Range rovers under Thomas: 0
I mean thats just maths which you cant dispute
@ZzmichaelN: As a Dale fan I wonder what (if anything) the efl can do to stop this, he’s not wanted by the fans or the board. So we should be able to just refuse him…surely
@CAFC81: I wouldn’t worry about what the EFL can/can’t do. Honestly, I dont believe they care. Think more what it is that you can all do as fans. You need to do all you can to stop this, especially if you want to keep your club. That really isn’t an exaggeration…
@ValleyFloydFred: We thought we had a bad owner before ESI and Southall. It was very much out of the frying pan into the fire.
@dane_stringer: This one has money but not willing to spend it. All he seems to do is self publication. Not what we thought he was going to be
@WiseyCabby: Nice knowing you Rochdale. RIP
@_DanSheed: He didn’t leave Charlton in a better position, he stole hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of Range Rovers. You can’t trust this man he is a criminal.
@DaleyFpl: This is very worrying. Thanks for the summary though.
@stevos9: Please don’t underestimate what will happen and fall for his lies, I’m a Charlton fan based in Halifax so fond memories of games between the Shaymen, wish nothing but the best for you
@Tony_Bigtone: He will asset strip your club for his own financial gain. He will live a lavish lifestyle, having nice cars, rent expensive flats and give club contracts to his friends & family.
@SteveK157DFC: He will ruin your club. Just look at all the stories about him from @CAFCofficial. Do whatever you can to keep him away from @officiallydale #CAFC #SayNoToSouthall
@Maccn5: You have to act. This guy is a total crook his deal separated the club from our ground & training ground & then ripped hundreds of thousands from the clubs funds while trying the place a personal £1m+ debt onto the club… links to Dale, Bassini… you lie with dogs you get fleas
@addickram8: Do NOT trust this man. Absolute poison to Charlton there is enough evidence online to make your own judgement. Take the warnings and tell him where to go, there will be other trustworthy investors out there.
@Real_ScottyLou: Be careful you’ll be getting an invoice for his time spent on the zoom call very soon. The bloke is a proven liar and I wouldn’t believe a word he said, if he told me the sky was blue I’d go outside to check!
@Alex70889454: Zoom call!? Surprised he didn’t use his super duper deal phone to call in
@dc5b040731a5436: You need to avoid this guy at all costs. Yours sincerely, a concerned Charlton fan.
@mikehn001: Careful guys, below that friendly, calm, understanding demeanour is a shark waiting for the right time to take a massive great bite out of your club with no consideration for what’s left after.
@KBslittlesis: DON’T BELIEVE A WORD HE SAYS!!!!!!!!! PLEASE 🙏
@mickeyj82: Don’t let him near your club
@_Just_Add_Water: Just read the piece, he’s already lying, he even mentioned ‘what if I didn’t take a penny out of the club’ which to me suggests he plans to do exactly the opposite
@markscharlesr: I really, really hope Rochdale don’t end up with Matt Southall connected to them in any form.
@snowrob1: Stay well away from him
@Rams80s: sorry we had a lucky escape with 1 of his associates in Erik Alonso.. both guys shouldn’t be aloud near any club. were in administration yet I wouldn’t have him no way near Derby.
@StarskyCAFC: How can the #EFL even begin to sanction him at any football club? Please @officiallydale keep this man away from your fantastic Club #cafc
Don’t do it, save yourselves from disaster before it’s too damn late! Run, keep running, and then run some more! pic.twitter.com/BPR3ut2hPb
— Clara (@CaisterClara) October 2, 2021