I didn't receive the letter that was sent out about this morning's meeting, despite being a shareholder. I think the main reason for this is that I have never changed my address from my Mum's house as my wife makes me move so often it hardly seemed worth it.
I had, however, scanned my Dad's copy, and was not completely sure exactly what it meant, but as I intended to go today I was sure I'd find out in due course.
In terms that I would have understood this is basically what has happened:
Charlton Athletic Plc - which is the company that we fans own shares in, has sold Charlton Athletic Football Company (which owns the players) and Charlton Athletic Holdings (which owns The Valley and the training ground) to Richard Murray's new company Baton 2010 Ltd for £1 each.
Thus if you bought shares in Charlton at any time in the past you now own a share of a company that has no assets and no income. This is actually irrelevant now as the company will be dissolved. Thus you will no longer have any shares as there is no longer any company.
For those of you, like me, that bought £100 worth of shares that means that you will never see that £100 again, and you no longer have any tangible asset (valid share certificate and/or a part ownership of the club). In actual fact the £100 was gone a long time ago. The club is no longer trading on the AIM (Alternative Investment Market) but you wouldn't have been able to sell those 200 shares as no one would buy them, so they were worthless anyway. There were 200 shares for £100 as the club did a right issue a few years back and the shareholding changed from 100 shares with a nominal value of £1 each to 200 with a nominal value of 50p each.
So, in essence, I paid £100 to be able to call myself a shareholder of the club for a few years (I can't remember when I bought them, sorry). The other benefit, of course, was that I was giving the club some money to spend and as all they do with the money is invest it the club (and team) that I love that is ok too.
There would be a different view if I had invested £10,000, but I honestly believe that anyone who invests money in a football club has to be willing to lose it all. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it is true.
So, ultimately, both the companies, one that is the real club and the one that owns The Valley and the training ground, are owned by Baton 2010 Ltd, which is owned by Richard Murray.
There were a few heated questions about the removal of the fans shareholders, and they were answered with the following - I'm paraphrasing:
The Valley is worth £4m (this is the land value with no planning permission and with a ban on residential development by the Council) the training ground's value (not mentioned today) was estimated to be, from memory, at £2m. Thus with total assets of £6m and with loans of £7m to Lombard Finance, £1m to HSBC and £22m to the directors (all of these loans had preference to the assets before the ordinary shareholders) there was a total negative value of the club of £24m. Thus, and this was stated by Richard Murray, the club was owned by the banks and he and the board just ran it for them.
So basically the shares were worthless in any case, and there was no way the club could continue as it was otherwise we would have ended up in Administration, with the ten point penalty as a reward.
When the fan/shareholder questioned this Richard stood up (the meeting was not being chaired by him as he was the purchasing party) and explained in no uncertain terms that the club needed £5m to avoid administration this season and he was willing to put that in out of his own pocket, and if anyone else in the room would rather do so they were more than welcome, but if we were to keep our shares now then we would lose them in Administration. Again I'm paraphrasing.
Other points to note are that the £15m of bonds (loans with an option to be converted into shares) were effectively being wiped out. There is a legal procedure that they went through, but in essence these debts are now gone, and they have not cost the club a penny. Thus I think a big thank you is owed to those that 'invested' £15m and have now waived any right to ever seeing that money again.
The £7m that was invested last year to see us through last season will still be a debt, but no interest will be payable until we reach the Championship, and none of the debt will be repaid until/unless we reach the Premier League, and then it will be repaid over three years.
Thus the club now has total debts of £15m, half of which do not need to be repaid unless we make it the the Premier League. In essence this means that the Premier League and the Directors have funded £29m of the total development costs of The Valley. Bearing in mind just how much money we lost on players that Pardew brought to the club that have now gone this is an impressive achievement.
The biggest disappointment of the day for me was the realisation that this change is not going to give us long term security in this division. We need, and I mean need, to win promotion this season. The current set up has trading losses of c. £4m this year (the other c. £1m is for working capital and one off payments).
In real terms the TV money and the ticket income cover the admin and the running of the stadium. The shortfall is almost exactly the costs of the playing staff. Richard was confident that in the event of failure to be promoted there would be alternative investment to keep the club going. In the event of promotion we would benefit from c. £6m more in TV money. That fact makes Charlton a viable business in the Championship, but not in League One.
There were a number of other subjects covered, but I cannot be bothered to discuss all of these at length, so I'll just use bullet points for some of them. Some of what I'm going to say is my interpretation of what Richard was saying, so if I'm wrong then I'm sorry.
There was mention of us securing permission from the Football League for the transfer of ownership. This was as Southampton were docked 10 points when their holding company went into Administration - we are about to dissolve our holding company. We are ok in the eyes of the FL.
Last summer's takeover was eventually cancelled as the buyers were unable to prove they had the funds to take the club forward -this, I believe, included being able to bankroll the club.
There were some details of the Shelvey deal. £1.7m up front (reduced to £1.5m with factoring) with a further £250k after each ten starts (an appearance from the bench is equal to half a start), up to 40 starts (£1m) and a further £250k if Shelvey plays for England. We also get 20% of anything he is sold for above what we have already been paid.
Richard was asked about any further signings, and he said that we are hoping to sign a defender, a striker and a player that can play upfront or on the wing (a player than can do both rather than one or the other). He said that he is hopeful that we will have these three signed up by the end of the week.
The Academy was brought up, and Richard said that we intend to keep it, but without boring you too much, the top Premier League clubs want to have different gradings for Academies, which would probably mean that they would have a perceived better set up than us. Time will tell. Sir Maurice Hatter, on the subject of the Academy, offered to stump up £100k if it could be matched by the others in the room. I think his money is safe for now, but I believe that this was a genuine offer.
There was a question about what the club can do to remove the 'Incest' (Adams Family) song at The Valley. it would seem that the club feel they can't do any more than they are currently doing, which is asking nicely for the fans to not sing it. I don't like it. I don't think it is what Charlton are about. I have to confess to swearing at games and half a dozen times a season I call a player (never one of ours) or the referee a word that begins with 'C' and finishes with 'unt'. I always feel embarrassed after doing so as I know it's not nice for women and children (and there is one of the former and a few of the latter in ear shot of me). However I think unpleasant songs are premeditated and there is no need or place for them. I would guess they won't be stamped out, but the club are trying.
There was mention of Parkinson, and Richard Murray said that he couldn't have more respect for him.
Last thing, Richard agreed to hold a meeting like this one for former shareholders every year. This was a nice touch, just the sort of thing I have come to expect from him. One other thing, he made the point that as a Plc he was restricted as to what he was allowed to say (even though you'd have struggled to believe it) but he said that once the new company is set up he has to answer to no one and he will be much more open. I'd get along to the next meeting he is at if I were you, as I'm sure it will be fantastic value for money!
Up the Addicks!