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Lloyds gives Crystal Palace crucial lifeline

David Hellier
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THE survival of championship football club Crystal Palace appeared more likely yesterday after a last- minute deal saved it from the threat of liquidation.

A life-saving agreement to sell the club’s stadium to a consortium bidding to own both that and the club itself was clinched mid-afternoon.

The deal, which seemed like it might be coming apart late on Monday evening, came as hundreds of Palace fans protested at Lloyds Banking Group’s Gresham Street headquarters.

The fans were angry that the bank’s Bank of Scotland arm appeared to be blocking the sale of the stadium by refusing to take a hit on its loan to the stadium-owning company Selhurst Park.

According to sources, Bank of Scotland had originally hoped the stadium would attract a bid of around £6m but in the end the deal is believed to be worth something like £2-3m.

Crucially the consortium has agreed to an anti-embarrassement clause which will repay the vendors if the stadium is later redeveloped and sold on for a much higher price.

This was seen as a sticking point late on Monday.

Barry Gilbertson, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, the stadium company’s administrator, said: “Throughout what has been a very complex administration, we had remained hopeful that we could conclude a deal with a purchaser whose vision for the ground matched that of the community, the football club and its supporters.

The consortium still needs to reach agreement with the administrator of the club itself, Brendan Guilfoyle from P&A Partnership.

Realistically, it is likely to be some weeks before the process, which includes the successful passing of a creditors’ voluntary agreement, is concluded.

BRENDAN GUILFOYLE
P&A

CRYSTAL Palace Football Club administrator Brendan Guilfoyle said he was a concerned man yesterday as he appeared to run out of options for saving the club.

“It’s like playing with a rubik’s cube in a game where you cannot lock all the pieces together,” he told City A.M. in the morning ahead of a crucial deal between the bidding consortium and the administrator for the company that owns the stadium.

Guilfoyle has specialised in business rescue and insolvency for 30 years and is a partner of the P&A Partnership, a firm that has its main offices in Sheffield and Leeds.

He’s not unused to football insolvencies, having been one of three administrators appointed by Luton Town to help sort out its financial difficulties in 2007.

He has not escaped criticism regarding his role at Crystal Palace with former owner Simon Jordan accusing him of not trying hard enough to find a rescuer.

At Crystal Palace he is trying to balance the interests of employees

– 27 of whom he had to let go last week – with those of the club’s supporters and hedge fund owner Agilo that bought him in to run the club.

By the end of yesterday, Guilfoyle must have been in better heart, but he still knows there’s a way to go.