Ryan still key to any Rovers deal, say Sequentia

John Ryan.
John Ryan.
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SEQUENTIA CAPITAL have acquired John Ryan’s major shareholding in Doncaster Rovers – but insist that the former chairman will return to the club if they complete a full takeover.

The Irish-based consortium have concluded a deal for Ryan’s 23 per cent stake and with several minor shareholders having also assigned their shares to Ryan, they are now Rovers’ largest individual shareholder with an estimated 31 per cent shareholding.

Sequentia’s bid to take over remains on the table, but they confirmed that several issues need to be resolved with remaining major shareholders Terry Bramall and Dick Watson, who own 23 per cent of the club, before any deal is agreed.

Sequentia representative Kevin Phelan met with board member David Blunt, negotiating on behalf of Bramall and Watson, earlier this month.

Confirming the development regarding the acquisition of Ryan’s shares, Phelan – involved in Isle of Man-registered company Westferry’s purchase of Rovers back in 1998, which was later sold to Ryan – said: “I have concluded a deal for his (Ryan’s) shares and loan notes. So at the moment, we probably control over 30 per cent of the club.

“I have made it clear to John Ryan that if Sequentia are involved in Doncaster, then John Ryan is involved. If John isn’t, Sequentia won’t be because Doncaster without John Ryan is like Hamlet without the prince; it just isn’t going to happen.

“When we signed up to the reinvestment, it was based on John Ryan controlling the club in its entirety; we’d bring in an investment repayable if the club got promoted. That was a win-win as far as we are concerned.”

Ryan approached Sequentia, backed by a tycoon based in the Central American tax haven of Belize, for investment in June and the consortium subsequently signed a heads of agreement with Rovers.

But talks subsequently stalled and the bid was rejected on the eve of the season with Sequentia – and Ryan – left frustrated after their promise to spend upwards of £20m to help Rovers achieve promotion to the Premier League failed to broker boardroom agreement.

That was the precursor to a deterioration in the relationship between Ryan and Bramall, chief objector to the Sequentia deal, with the boardroom split culminating in the long-serving Rovers chairman standing down on November 9.

While being critical of his fellow major shareholders’ failure to agree what he labelled as ‘the deal of the century’, Ryan says that the catalyst to the decision was his belief that other board members, including Bramall, attempted to negotiate their own deal with Sequentia without his knowledge.

Ryan’s resignation was an unwelcome development for Sequentia, insists Phelan, with any deal hinging on the 63-year-old returning to the club.

Outlining a list of several frustrations since the summer, Phelan said: “In June, we signed a heads of terms (agreement) with (majority) shareholders negotiated by David Blunt, which we were happy with and they were.

“But they effectively went back on that deal, which we were not happy about.

“Terry Bramall was in discussions with another party, while he had already signed up to a deal with us, which we were (also) not happy with and we know that to be factual.

“But we moved on and John sat down with us and we renegotiated and restructured the deal and two weeks ago, I was contacted by David Blunt again. I have a lot of time for David; he’s a professional guy, although he is just representing the other two guys (Bramall and Watson).

“At the meeting, I was asked not to speak to John after it. I said: ‘Look, I brought John Ryan to the club in 1998 and he’s a friend of mine – he brought me back in to try and get investment.’ It was awkward and embarrassing and I asked if they would explain to John why I can’t speak to him.

“Because of all that, John was angry and it was the straw which broke the camel’s back.”

Despite a renegotiation of the deal in recent weeks, which saw Sequentia agree to make payments up front instead of over a five-year period – an issue in the knock-back of the first bid – sticking points remain.

Phelan added: “Part of that negotiation revolved around if the club were successful and drew Man United for instance in a cup that it would be worth a quarter of a million on the gate and they got the price to reflect that. I said we were not getting involved paying a price for a club which involved future income for a club.

“That’s what they put on the table and it’s just not acceptable.

“We were also totally unhappy with John resigning. It wasn’t part of the script.”

He added: “When we were doing this deal in the summer, everyone was at the top of the league because they hadn’t played any matches. Now we are in a situation where the club is fourth from bottom and could drop into the relegation zone.

“We were prepared to put our money where our mouth is, so if other people have a different opinion, let them put their money where their mouth is. Then it’s fine, we will walk away.”

Rovers, who yesterday officially confirmed the takeover of Doncaster Dons RLFC – start off life without Ryan in tomorrow’s key televised home clash with rock-bottom Yeovil Town, with the hosts just above them in 21st place in the Championship.

Bramall, a rare matchday visitor to the Keepmoat Stadium, is expected to be in attendance with Ryan watching the game from South Africa.