Exclusive: Bradford’s big two wanted by haulage chief

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MILLIONAIRE businessman Steve Parkin wants to purchase both Bradford City and Bulls to form a joint sporting club in the city.

The chief executive of Brighouse-based Clipper Group has been in secret talks with representatives of both clubs for several weeks and has made a firm bid for the Bantams to joint-chairmen Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes.

As part of the plan, Parkin, who is currently on the board of Conference North side Guiseley, wants to build a purpose-built new stadium in Bradford for the two clubs to share.

It is understood the offer for City has initially been rejected but joint-chairman Rhodes has confirmed to the Yorkshire Post that discussions are ongoing.

Speaking last night, Parkin said: “My idea is to bring the two clubs together under the control of Bradford Sporting Club.

“In the short term, they would both play at one stadium as that would be the most economically viable option. Then, in five or six years’ time when the economy has fully recovered, we would be looking to move Bradford Sporting Club into one purpose-built stadium in the city.

“Under the plans, the day-to-day running of both Bradford City and Bradford Bulls would be done by two hand-picked management teams. They would be run independently but both be divisions of Bradford Sporting Club.

“People have tried to do this in the past but because of the individuals concerned it has never got off the ground. It is almost as if neither side trusts the other sufficiently to believe their own club won’t lose out.

“I believe it would take someone like myself to make it happen.”

Parkin was previously involved in a bid to buy Leeds United in 2004 before taking charge of Guiseley with John Gill and Gary Douglas a couple of years later.

On his attempts to purchase League Two City, he added: “I was approached on behalf of Bradford City quite a while ago to see if I would be interested in investing. I was, basically, offered a third of the club. That is not how I work, I instead prefer to be in overall control.

“Despite that, I did have a couple of conversations and then looked at the books. I thought things were going swimmingly and a week last Friday I believed the deal would go ahead. But then Julian and Mark came back to say ‘no’.

“My offer to buy Bradford City involved me raising around £3m. As part of that, Mark would be paid back a £1m loan he has in the club over 18 months. I was also willing to pay £750,000 for the shares owned by Mark and Julian with a possible further £750,000 based on performance.

“With that in mind, I wanted to set up a capital structure, whereby existing shareholders would retain 25 per cent of the shares in the football division of Bradford Sporting Club but have no voting rights. Any dividends would then be paid if the club was making a profit. That way, they would be paid on a performance-related basis. The same would apply to the Bulls with existing shareholders having 25 per cent of the shares in the rugby league side.

“Unfortunately, Julian and Mark didn’t want that. They wanted it to be guaranteed. I can’t accept that. There is no point me raising £3m and handing over £2.5m for Bradford City, which is basically not worth a lot in the open market.

“I have looked at a few football clubs and there are a lot who can be picked up for nothing. And they have assets, such as owning their own ground. That is not the case with Valley Parade.

“I want to invest as much money in the team as possible as that is the most important part of any football club.”

When asked about Parkin’s offer, Rhodes told the Yorkshire Post: “Discussions are ongoing and we appreciate Steve’s interest. His accountants were impressed with what they saw.

“We will always do what is in the best interests of Bradford City and, in that respect, we are still waiting to see Steve’s business plan.”

City’s joint-chairman, who along with his father Professor David Rhodes and Lawn recently bought the office block next to Valley Parade to ease the club’s crippling rent bill, also confirmed that the current shareholders have around £5.5m invested in the Bantams.

Parkin, who earlier this year was in discussions to buy Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, insists his offer remains on the table.

He said: “The door remains open. What attracted me to Bradford City is that they can easily sustain Championship football, providing the right management structure is in place.

“Bradford is a big city and its football club has a long history. The same goes for the rugby league club. I have had tentative discussions with the shareholders of Bradford Bulls, who were very receptive. I just hope we can make something happen.”

If a deal can be struck, Parkin appreciates his official involvement in Guiseley would have to come to an end due to League regulations.

However, of the club who reached last season’s Conference North play-off final, he added: “I would remain a benefactor. After all the hard work that has gone into getting Guiseley this far, I could not let that go to waste.”

Parkin’s route to success...

STEVE Parkin founded his business, Clipper Group, in 1992 with one van delivering clothing for fashion stores.

The company won a number of important contracts in the early years with retailers such as Huddersfield-based Bon Marche and Sir Philip Green which helped it to establish a strong foothold in the transport, haulage and warehousing market. The company has also made a number of acquisitions in recent years. It now employs around 3,000 staff and has 28 European distribution centres, including 22 in the UK.

The company handled 400 million garments last year, a significant proportion of all clothing bought in the UK.