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Boltons ACV. What’s the beef?

A council decision is due imminently on whether to overturn the ACV approval, after Ken Anderson’s request for them to review their decision.

A background to ACVs (Assets of Community Value) within football can be found in DowntheMannyRd superb article here

In regards to Bolton Wanderers, the debate is; whilst a well meaning idea, has the placement of an ACV on the stadium and surrounding land by the ST (Supporters Trust) actually put a barrier in place to the owners much needed refinancing plans for the club OR does an ACV provide a vital breathing space for fans to have full visibility of and say in any sell off of assets that are considered not in the best interests of our club?

Ken Anderson was reported in the Bolton News as saying “We are contesting the ACV as we believe it is fundamentally restrictive to the progress we are trying to make at the club. It could have a knock on effect for any refinancing of the club and/or the hotel and the properties that were sold before my involvement, but that we are hoping to buy back in the near future.

... this whole process is wasting our valuable time and is eating into our cash reserves, which could be better used elsewhere in the business ... Hopefully, the Supporters’ Trust will see sense and not object to our appeal and save the club a great deal of cash and time.”

An earlier ST statement on the ACV said ”The ACV does not prevent football clubs in their occupation and use of land which is deemed important to the community. It does not impede such property being mortgaged and is intended to protect property from secret sales thus seeking to introduce a transparency to transactions; the listing party is afforded a period of 6 weeks in which to register their interest in any change of ownership to the ACV, and given the opportunity to match sale terms.”

When ACV approval was given in Feb 17 by the council, the ST were quoted as saying “This is a positive event in helping to safeguard the future stability and sustainability of our club and in ensuring the use of BWFC assets always has the greater good of our club as the main focus.”

The subject has also become controversial and divisive with our fans, with some pretty nasty stuff going to and fro across the various Bolton Wanderers related social media platforms.

My view has always been pro ACV, but as I, like most fans, don’t know that much about it, it’s a subject that needs further review. Fortunately, I know someone who knows a great deal about ACVs. So let’s see what the ACV actually does and then let’s put it to the test for the two most contentious scenarios that are out there.

For Bolton, the ACV provides the following ‘protection’ if the stadium (&/or surrounding land owned by the club) comes up for sale:

  1. The ACV would ONLY apply in the event of a full sale of the club if the stadium is to be sold to help fund the takeover (sale and leaseback).
  2. The ACV holder (in our case the ST) have sole rights to contest the sale if they so require.
  3. Sale notification has to be given to the council and they would inform the ACV holder. The aim here is to ensure full transparency to any potential sale, thus preventing a scenario of fans first knowing about a sale after the process has completed.
  4. The ST would then be given six weeks to decide if they were to make a counter offer. The whole 6 weeks doesn't have to be taken. For example, the ST could meet with club and after hearing their plans decide it's in club best interests and elect not to exercise their rights.
  5. If the ST do wish to make a counter offer then they have another 20 weeks to do so (hence the whole process being up to a maximum of six months).
  6. Anderson would not be able to complete a sale during this period, if the ST decide to make a counter offer.
  7. Anderson does not have to accept the ST offer after the six months is up and can sell to the original bidder.

And that’s about it. So, to the scenarios.

Scenario one: a billionaire has decided to buy Bolton Wanderers Football Club outright, pay off the debts and has agreed terms with Anderson. However, said billionaire needs to complete within a month due to business promotional requirements. Other clubs are on the radar if Bolton can’t meet the Billionaires deadline.

Answer: The ACV does not give any rights to interfere with a sale of the club. As mentioned, an ACV is only activated if the stadium, hotel or BWFC owned surroundings are going to change ownership (which it wouldn't if it's a share sale as ownership remains with the BWFC Company).

Explanation: Change in ownership of the shares is not a change in the ownership of the stadium. As it stands now Anderson doesn't own the stadium. He has a reflective interest in law but no more. Anderson’s InnerCircle company owns majority shares in Burnden Leisure (the holding company that owns BWFC/Whites Hotel). Burnden Leisure in law is a legal person and owns BWFC. BWFC is likewise a legal person and owns the stadium.

Scenario two: Anderson agrees to sell off the stadium and rent it back in order to create funds to support the running of the club going forward.

Answer: Simples. The ACV process is activated. See the ACV explanation above. In my opinion six months of fan pressure (and I don’t mean just the ST) could have an impact on this sale going through. The QuikQuid outcry of a few years back is a good example.

There are obviously other scenarios out there, so let me know below the line or on Twitter if you need more information and what impact an ACV will have on them and I’ll see if I can find out.