Former 'Well chairman sends stark warning over American investment deal

Brian McCafferty says the financial future of the club is at 'major risk'.

Former Motherwell chairman sends stark warning over deal with American investors SNS Group

Former Motherwell chairman Brian McCafferty has urged fans not to risk the financial future of the club by handing control to American TV executive Erik Barmack.

The Motherwell board recommends shareholders accept a £1.95million offer from Wild Sheep Sports, a firm created by Barmack and his wife, Courtney, for a 47 per cent stake.

However, the board of the Well Society, the fan-run majority shareholder, has urged its members to reject the plan in a ballot which opened on Monday morning. Their decision will decide the outcome.

McCafferty, who previously chaired both the Motherwell and Well Society boards, said: “The Wild Sheep offer would put fan ownership and the financial future of Motherwell at major risk.

“The revision to allow the Well Society to retain slightly more than half of the shares is largely symbolic as the deal immediately hands Wild Sheep effective control.

“Although both groups will have three representatives on the board, Erik Barmack will have a casting vote as chairman and the deal stipulates that Wild Sheep will develop overall strategy in conjunction with two club executives. The Well Society is only entitled to ‘discuss’ these key decisions.

“Much has been made of the independence of the two club employees on the board, but people come and go at football clubs all the time – especially if they disagree with the chairman – and Wild Sheep could appoint any replacements. So it’s unquestionably boardroom control.

“There are other factors that risk fan ownership, including what happens if the Well Society misses its financial obligations to almost match the Barmacks’ investment. This remains unclear, and I’d expect many fans would stop paying subscriptions if control is handed to an overseas investor.

“Fans would have no say over other investors Erik Barmack has talked about introducing and Wild Sheep could be entitled to take a share of the club’s profits after year six.”

Both the Well Society and Wild Sheep unveiled business plans last week. The fan group is focused on growing support in Lanarkshire and becoming a “community anchor” while utilising “strategic partnerships”. The Barmack plan is focused on growing the global fanbase through marketing and media strategies.

“I find it strange that there is a drive to rush this deal through when the club is financially stable,” said McCafferty, who brokered a takeover deal with Les Hutchison in 2015 that saw the latter avert a financial crisis for Motherwell and steer the club towards fan ownership.

“The Wild Sheep plan outlines almost £4million of spending on projects inside three years – yet the Barmacks are only investing £900,000 during this period.

“The nature of many of the plans, such as spending £600,000 on pre-match and post-match entertainment, casts major doubt on the financial viability of the project. There is a real chance the club would need further funding which could leave it in serious trouble or again dilute fans’ share.

“The deal was always going to be a gamble. Fans would be putting their own money and the club’s finances in the hands of someone with no track record in football. By the looks of the Wild Sheep plan, it’s a massive gamble and I urge Motherwell fans to reject the offer.

“The Well Society plan is a highly considered approach and I know there have been alternative financial options emerging during this process that could provide some security for the club without the risks inherent in the Wild Sheep offer. There is absolutely no need to rush into this deal.”

In a fresh statement after the ballot opened, current chairman Jim McMahon admitted the club did not need investment now but added: “You get the best deal when you don’t need the money – if you do need money the terms will be much less attractive.

“This is an attempt to move away from season-to-season budgeting to a more sustainable basis.

“As has been pointed out, this is a vote on the Barmark proposal not the WS outline plan.”

McMahon, who wrongly spelled the Wild Sheep owners’ name as ‘Barmark’ throughout his statement, went on to ask a number of questions of the Well Society’s own very initial talks with other potential investors.

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