An investigation into the finances of Everton – Part 1 Ownership

With Everton struggling to compete financially with the majority of teams in the Premier League, Evertonians are becoming increasingly fragmented, with supporters allegiance to the board split between pro, anti and somewhere in the middle. With the debate heating up and the different camps releasing their own propaganda, I thought it was time that I delved into the financial statements of Everton Football Club Company Ltd to look at the clubs off the pitch performance during the last 16 years, the period in which Everton have been under the ownership of Bill Kenwright. In doing so, I am not looking to support any of the sides in the board debate; instead I am looking to present detailed facts to enable supporters to make up their own minds.

The first part of the investigation looks at the ownership of Everton Football Club, tracing back to 1999 and Peter Johnson’s sale of the club to the consortium led by Bill Kenwright.

As of today there is currently around 1,500 individuals who own the 35,000 shares in Everton Football Club Company Ltd, however a relatively small number of people own the majority of Everton’s shares.

shareholders

To understand how we got to this position let’s rewind to late 1998-early 1999 and Everton are in a very difficult place, both financially and on the football pitch. Peter Johnson, the majority shareholder (71.39% of shares) and chairman had come under increasing pressure from both supporters and the local press and reluctantly had taken the decision to stand down from his position and announced his intention to sell his shareholding in the club. Sir Philip Carter, the former chairman accepted an invitation to return in an interim capacity and to oversee the transition to new ownership.

Sir Philip Carter’s report to the shareholders in the 1999 financial statements, presented a pessimistic, yet candid and open view on the clubs performance. The late Sir Philip Carter was an excellent business man, taking up the position of managing director at Littlewoods and in 1992 was one of the instigators in the creation of the Premier League. Carter recognised the leagues potential and was instrumental in securing Sky’s backing for the new venture. Carter was extremely well respected in the football world and his damming view of how Everton had been managed during Peter Johnson’s era highlights exactly how bad things had gotten at the football club. You can criticise Bill Kenwright for many things, but he was instrumental in rescuing Everton from the callus mismanagement of Peter Johnson.

‘Anyone with more than a passing interest in our fortunes will certainly realise that last season was one of considerable turbulence. We entered the season on an optimistic note. A new management team [Walter Smith, assisted by Archie Knox] had been put in place with substantial funds that had been made available to assist in rebuilding our squad, which it must be acknowledged was in desperate need of strengthening [during the previous campaign the Blues had survived relegation on goal difference, with a 1-1 draw on the final day of the season lifting them out of the bottom three].

Defenders Alex Cleland, Marco Materazzi and midfielders John Collins and Olivier Dacourt arrived prior to the new campaign and were soon joined by striker Ibrahima Bakayoko, goalkeeper Steve Simonsen, and then defender David Unsworth returning to his beloved Goodison. A total investment in excess of £22m was required to secure their services, plus a considerable addition to the wage bill. Given that only Duncan Ferguson, John Spencer, Tony Thomas and Gavin McCann were  sold, you can readily appreciate how the Club’s financial situation became extremely serious virtually overnight.’

‘I think it is fair to state that we had overstretched ourselves financially in bringing in new players and by November, after detailed discussion with our Bank, we agreed that the only course of action was to reduce our borrowings…The only offer for the Club to consider was that received from Newcastle [for Duncan Ferguson]. The speed of the transfer on that’ night of November 23rd certainly caught many of us by surprise. In the eyes of many supporters the sale of Duncan was unthinkable, but it must be remembered that no one personality is bigger than the Club’s future welfare and the best that can be said is that the sale assisted in stabilising the immediate financial crisis we faced.’

The sale of Duncan Ferguson and subsequent fan reaction, certainly expedited the sale of the football club and with Bill Kenwright and his True Blue Holdings consortium the only viable option, Peter Johnson retreated back over the Mersey and took up office once more at Tranmere Rovers.

After months of negotiations a deal was finally reached in December 1999, with the directors of True Blue Holdings agreeing to buy Johnson’s 71.39% stake at a price of £857 per share and thus becoming the majority owners of Everton Football Club. A look inside the financial statements for True Blue (Holdings) Ltd for the period ending 31st May 2001 shows that the deal completed on 3rd March 2000. The breakdown of the ownership reported in the financial statements is detailed in the table below.

True Blue

True Blue Holdings remained majority shareholders until 2004, when a bitter battle between Bill Kenwright and the Gregg Family resulted in True Blue Holdings winding up. Consequently the share ownership in Everton was devolved proportionally to each individual director of the consortium.

In time the Gregg family became increasingly disenfranchised with Everton and in 2006 they agreed to sell their shareholding to Robert Earl’s BCR Sports, an investment vehicle registered in the British Virgin Isles. The sale price remained undisclosed, however it is reported that the Gregg’s recouped their initial investment in Everton.

An accusation often levelled at the current board is a lack of further investment into the football club. The table below details the estimated and relatively small net worth of the current Everton directors. With the exception of Robert Earl, the other directors simply do not have the financial wealth to invest significant sums into Everton and unfortunately, it would appear that Robert Earl does not have a passion for football or Everton.

net worth

If we compare the wealth of the major Everton shareholders to the estimated net worth of the owners of each of last season’s Premier League clubs, the huge financial chasm that exists between the Blues and their peers is plainly evident. Under the current ownership, Everton do not have the financial might to compete with the Premier League’s big guns, this in itself is not a criticism of the current board, it is an unfortunate fact of modern day football.

prem net worth

An accusation often directed at Bill Kenwright and his fellow directors, is that the major shareholders are siphoning funds away from the football club. Firstly, and this is true of many clubs and not just Everton, there isn’t enough profit in football for the directors to withdraw funds from a football club. The only people making money out of football are the players, their agents and the TV companies.  The table below drawn directly from Everton’s financial statements over the last 16 years, shows that the directors of the club have not received a penny in dividends and apart from when the chief executive has sat on the board, not a penny in wages. What is clear from this table is the significant salary received previously by Keith Wyness and currently by Robert Elstone.

remuniration

To surmise the investigation so far, Bill Kenwright and True Blue Holdings purchased their major shareholding at a time when the football club was in financial trouble. The banks were putting pressure on the club to sell players and Everton were struggling to remain afloat, both financially and in the Premier League.

Unfortunately, the major shareholders, or certainly those with a direct interest, do not have the financial resources to push Everton forward and realistically, with the club under their ownership this is not going to change.

With regards to the board withdrawing funds from the club, we can categorically state there is no evidence that Bill Kenwright and his fellow directors have ever withdrawn a penny from the club and they certainly do not receive a salary in connection to any of the work they do for Everton.

Part two of our investigation into the ownership and finances of Everton Football Club will be published tomorrow, with a focus on the clubs financial performance since 1999.

19 thoughts on “An investigation into the finances of Everton – Part 1 Ownership

  1. Hi

    I think there is an error in your analysis.

    I don’t believe Robert else one is a stat director and as such I think the £350k was actually paid to Bill kenwright.

    Thanks

    Will

      1. Hi Daniel.

        Thanks for your response. I believe the stat accounts disclosure is for individuals registered as a director at companies house.

        As disclosed in the accounts Robert else one is not a director.

        If you can show me in the companies act where this concept of “shadow director” arises and how it fits into the disclosure requirements under UK gaap then fair enough.

        But I think you are genuinely wrong in this regard.

        To be clear, I have no motive either way. Just think you are factually incorrect.

        Cheers

        Will

      2. Hi Will

        The disclosure covers both Non Exec and Exec directors. As CEO Robert Elstone is an Exec director and under new Government reforms introduced in 2013 all UK companies are required to declare the salary of the CEO. The 2014 accounts were the first to fall under these reforms and therefore Elstone’s salary is declared for the first time.

        https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/158048/13-727-directors-remuneration-reforms-faq.pdf

        I understand your concern but Bill Kenwright is not receiving any money from EFC.

      3. Hi again

        To be clear I have no concern with bill receiving £350k.

        The link you provided applies only to listed companies. Full list not even aim.

        Secondly it relates to executive and non executive directors. Robert elstone. is not a director as defined under the companies act.

        You can go on companies house and see the directors or look as disclosed in the accounts.

        Just because he is ceo does not make home a director.

        I therefore still think you are mistaken.

        What do you think?

        Ps I do not know that bill was the star director who received the £350k but he seems most likely.

        Thanks

        Will

    1. Thanks for your reply J Smith. Nice to see you are willing to enter into a sensible debate. I think you will find part two reaches a different conclusion.

      For the record I think it is time for a new board and a change in direction. Unfortunately the false accusation thrown around on Twitter and other forums put me off the action groups.

  2. You claim to only present the facts and not an opinion and yet you claim that Everton were in financial difficulties and were “rescued” by Bill Kenwright.

    Would you care to show EFC balance sheet before Kenwright took over and two years later then we can decide who got the club into financial difficulties.

    For the record at will show that Bill Kenwright took over a net asset position at the club and a reasonably healthy balance sheet which less than 2 years later the club had a net liability position with losses made every year.

    I should also point out that Peter Johnson was the last board member to make any significant improvement/investment into the stadium(GP) building the Park end stand.

    Please correct this misleading propoganda.

    1. There is no doubt Everton were in financial difficulties when Bill Kenwright took over. Everton themselves were happy to admit it.

      The balance sheet was stronger pre Kenwright, however the clubs debt to turnover ratio was significantly higher than it is today.

      I also think it is wrong to retrospectively re-write history. Everton were not in a good position under Johnson and it is widely accepted that Bill Kenwright’s takeover was positive for Everton.

      The Park End stand was completed on the cheep and built using government grant funding. The stand is not befitting of Everton or Goodison Park and the short sighted approach has held Everton back ever since.

      1. So Daniel you comment on the Park End redevelopment being cheap and unfit for a club of Everton’s stature yet don’t mention, as its actually impossible to do so without major criticism, of BK’s infrastructure improvements – a hole knocked in a wall he didn’t own, an incredibly amateurish tent in a car park, drop feign stories that the ground was about to fail its health and safety certification to attempt to sway favour for the Destination Kirkby vote when it was a lie – I can provide the email response from the Health & Safety executive as evidence if you want. As I have already mentioned in another response this is a very selective and biased article.

      2. Thanks for your response Gavin. Please do read the second part of the investigation which will be published later today. Hopefully you will not feel the process has been biased after reading that. I have also decided to look further at the failed ground moves and the performance of the CEOs. To ensure this is done properly and in the required detail I will be publishing parts 3 and 4 in a few weeks time.

  3. Simple maths,what did kenWright pay for the club what’s it value now, not bad for someone who hasn’t invested a penny into the club.

  4. Could a loan from a bvi company (owner not known) be one way of extracting money from a football club without raising too many questions ?

  5. Elstone is a man who can demand a large salary due to his financial tack record hence the figure of £350k is far from being surprising its expected. Bear in mind that if the club made payments to Kenwright in the name of Elstone it would be investigated by HMIT and the Premier league for false accounting hence any suggestion that the sum paid to anyone else other than Elstone is pure nonsense. If people wish to contribute to a debate please engage your minds before writing nonsense. To find a smoking gun the weapon needs to be fired first and in these circumstances it certainly hasn’t.

    1. Hi

      To be clear the source of the £350k in the above article is the statutory accounts disclosure of directors emoluments.

      My point is this disclosure relates to the stat directors of the club.

      Robert Elstone is not a stat director of the club as registered at companies house and therefore I do not believe it relates to him.
      I am not saying that payments have been made in anyone else’s name.
      I also do not know which director received the £350k, I just believe it is probable that it was bill kenwright.

      Again if this is the case I have no issue with this.

      Thanks

      Will

  6. Fairly simple information to obtain the Articles of Association of Everton Football Club clearly stipulate the only Directors able to draw a salary have to be employees of the club, a wistful BK often used to claim he never took a salary, he actually never could unless he became an employee, not a matter of honour but a legal obligation..

    No one actually knows who owns BCR Sports as BVI laws actively protect the anonymity of owners of companies registered on the island, very strange that no previous business ventures undertaken before by Robert Earl utilised tax haven registered entities and Paul Gregg explaining who paid for his shareholding and it wasn’t Robert Earl.
    The “bitter feud” you mention but don’t detail was as a result of the Chairman refusing to step down when Paul Gregg offered to source the funding for the Kings Dock project, the subsequent FSF fairytale and lies led to the demand from Paul Gregg for TBH to be dissolved, your article doesn’t mention the Bear Stearns securitisation, claim of ring fenced funding for Kings Dock, the FSF lie which seems to make it quite selective in what you are trying to detail.
    Also fails to mention the sale of Bellefield and what happened to those funds, the whole Finch Farm build sale and future rental, multiple mortgages on Goodison Park, the hysterical excuses for Everton Place, Destination Kirkby and the lies and money wasted on that folly and the statement from the CEO that not one of the major shareholders have spent a single penny on the club, the latest CEO blog on WHP which is unapologetic about the club looking for someone else besides the club to fund a new stadium which will lead to it being strike three at failed ground moves for the current regime.

    You can hardly pen an article regarding the financial situation the club is in and not mention those, article two you could add the commercial revenue streams not even on a par with our peers in the same league or failure to market the club in foreign markets where we have active players – Tim Howard’s World Cup heroics seen around the world and no exploitation to the benefit of the club’s coffers

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