As you were as Gianni Paladini’s Bradford City takeover bid falls through

Picture by Claire Epton

Picture by Claire Epton

By Jason McKeown

Following our news earlier that Gianni Paladini’s attempted takeover of Bradford City was in doubt, WOAP can reveal that the deal has officially fallen through due to the Italian’s failure to secure the funding required.

Paladini will not be Bradford City’s new owner. Rather than going Italian, the club continue to be owned by two Yorkshiremen. What promised to be a revolution will instead be business as usual under Julian Rhodes and Mark Lawn.

The end of the chapter, but perhaps not the final curtain. WOAP understands that other buyers are now ready to step up their interest, and that a consortium of investors could potentially be brought together. Nothing will be resolved quickly on this front, we must stress. The waiting game carries on.

In the meantime, the planning for next season must continue, with Lawn, Rhodes and – hopefully – Phil Parkinson at the forefront.

The Gianni vision

It has been an interesting few weeks for all concerned.

I first heard of Paladini’s interest in the club the tea time before the Bantams prepared to welcome Bristol City, back in April. A call around usually reliable sources quickly confirmed that this story had legs. As City went down 6-0 that night, people were coming up to me in the Kop asking if I’d heard about a takeover rumour. I headed home early, deflated by the dismal scoreline. My match report of the heavy defeat included a mention that a would-be buyer was waiting in the wings.

WOAP was the first news outlet to run with this story. Twitter beat us to announcing it, although curiously Telegraph & Argus journalist Simon Parker was quick to dismiss the takeover story via a Tweet. As news formally broke later that week, the T&A claimed they had known about Paladini’s interest for weeks. If this was the case, it is interesting as to why the paper held back from reporting it, and even took steps to rubbish this breaking news story.

As the takeover talk went public, whispers were aired over the apparent financial strength of Paladini and his range of backers. The Italian would buy Valley Parade from the Gibb Pension Fund. Phil Parkinson would be given a transfer budget of £10 million to deliver promotion next season. Some of the world’s richest men were lined up to back Paladini – whose reasoning for wanting to buy Bradford City was that he was bored.

There is now retrospective criticism from some, aimed at Rhodes and Lawn, that they should have checked whether Paladini really did have the capital that he was claiming to have lined up. At the time, sources close to WOAP spoke to club directors themselves, who disclosed that Paladini’s backers had provided the board with proof of their wealth and financial capability. At this point in the process, it would appear there was a genuine commitment to buy and put serious money into the club.

And this was an intoxicating prospect to anyone. “I hear we’re going to be the next Man City” one supporter said to me. That was an exaggeration of course, but in relative terms the supposed level of investment clearly seemed life-changing for a club which has endured plenty of financial difficulties over the past 13 years.

Never mind the Football League Financial Fair Play rules that mean City could only spend 60% of their turnover on player wages – making a £10 million transfer budget unworkable – this was a time to dream of big signings and promotion to the Championship. And after that, maybe even a return to the top flight. Exciting times.

It would be wrong to say that we supporters got swept away with the apparent promises of Paladini; the opposite was true in many respects. After the superb progress since the summer of 2012, there was a feeling that things were going in the right direction and that success was sustainable. That the recent achievements felt more special for the hard work behind it. And that by accepting Paladini’s cash the club risked selling its soul.

Paladini’s association with QPR only added to these fears. The Four Year Plan documentary was not a good advert for Paladini and his backers. It looked like chaos, with managers hired and sacked in the blink of an eye. This sort of approach didn’t sit right in these parts, especially with the most popular City manager in a long time at the helm.

For many people, the mantra towards Paladini was “thanks, but no thanks”. These people will be happy tonight.

The limitations of the two chairmen

As Lawn and Rhodes spoke in public about the takeover talks at the end of April, there was an interesting confession. Lawn admitted that he and Rhodes were prepared to step aside because they could not afford to fund City in the Championship themselves. “We wouldn’t be able to put the money in. When you look at the wage bills – £20million at Leeds United, £35million at Reading and they’re not even competing at play-off level,” he told Sky Sports.

“Millwall – I’ve been talking to their chairman and he’s been putting in £8million for the last five years, every year, just to keep them in that league.

“I haven’t got that sort of money and I’ve got to be honest about it.”

Such bluntness has so often been the hallmark of Lawn’s tenure at Valley Parade; but reading these comments at the time I feared that he was showing too much of his hand. That if the takeover wasn’t to go through, he might have needlessly exposed his limitations and subsequently faced a credibility problem.

Which isn’t to criticise Lawn and Rhodes – they have committed a substantial part of their wealth into the club, and have commendably continued to ensure City lives within its means. But they risk the mood around Valley Parade dampening now because of that confession. That when Parkinson is talking to summer transfer targets, the ambition for the club that he would be trying to sell to players and agents might be undermined. “A two/three year contract to play for Bradford City? But I hear you can’t afford to compete in the Championship.”

Even without the takeover, City have an increased budget to operate on next season – one that can support a promotion push. Perhaps the club can’t compete financially in the Championship under the current set up, but that is for another day. Let’s get there first.

When in 2006 Peter Etherington attempted to buy half the club, only for it to fall through on the eve of the season, the difficulties caused by a summer of financial limbo ultimately resulted in relegation to League Two. There is no reason to fear history repeating itself here. City are in a good position without the takeover going through.

Lawn probably showed too much of his hand last April. But nevertheless, that hand is still a strong one.

Unsettling Parkinson

One major benefit to the takeover failing is that Parkinson’s Valley Parade future should be more assured – or at the very least, it makes it much harder for him to walk away. Although the Sheffield Star claim Parkinson would be given much bigger resources by leaving City for Sheffield United, the pressure to deliver instant success heavily echoes his doomed move from Colchester to Hull City, almost a decade ago.

Yet still, Lawn and Rhodes need to do everything they can to make sure Parkinson feels wanted. A few months ago Lawn stated he wanted to extend Parkinson’s contract, but talks were subsequently put on hold due to the Paladini situation. Those negotiations now need to recommence, and Lawn and Rhodes need to be driving them.

In four years at the club, Parkinson has delivered superb results and handsomely rewarded the faith shown in him. He needs to be rewarded for that. Even if Sheffield United don’t lure him to South Yorkshire, it makes little sense to allow Parkinson’s contract to run down over the next few months.

After weeks of heavy fog clouding the future of Bradford City, some clarity has emerged and the need to push forwards is obvious. The takeover saga hasn’t derailed the plans for next season, and there is no need to feel downbeat by the end of Paladini’s interest.

Get Parkinson’s future sorted, get Stead’s contract nailed, get new players into the building, and let’s get ready for another exciting adventure next season.

Categories: Opinion

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10 replies

  1. Another fine article Jason.

    We have the budget to get up but not to stay up and maybe it’s that which influences PPs choices over the coming days.

    I am pleased the deal has fallen through as we weren’t dealing with the money men directly. I’d like to see another investor on board rather than a full takeover…here’s hoping.

    We need to steady the ship now, secure our manager and start planning for next season in earnest

  2. It’s only amazing cup runs and the sale of our main asset though Jason that has kept City solvent and Lawn and Rhodes in high esteem. What happens if next season early exits from the cups result in another huge budget cut summer 2016. Parky has done wonders to bring in funds with exceptional cup runs and thanks to the foresight of Archie Christie ,Nahki Wells would have been discarded as Jacko didn’t want him. I hope you are right about other potential investors as this deficit policy run by the current board is only credible if we continue to defy logic in the cups.

  3. Friday evening here and I’ve just read this. What a start to the weekend – it’s fantastic news. I’m chuffed to bits. I think a few celebratory drinks are in order. I was so worried that if the sale went through the special bond we all have with our beloved BCFC would somehow be squeezed out and lost. I really feared for Parkie’s position as well if it had gone through. Any comment now Warnock? ; )

  4. Also kind of pleased the takeover didn’t occur. Gianni carried too much baggage for my liking. However I do see a takeover occurring in the future. Out of the top 2 leagues we are ripe for investment. We filled VP twice last yr with 24,000 fans, remember we are league 1 outfit!

    With the right investment and maybe stadium expansion don’t you think we could smash that figure If in the prem league. There will be some foreign businessmen who are looking at a English club to take forward. I know doubt Bradford City will be flashing on their excel spreadsheets!

  5. I think you’ve nicely captured the majority view there Jason – certainly of those I’ve spoken to. Perhaps, more positively, one benefit of the chairman being open about the club’s resources might be to temper excessive demands from prospective players and their agents.

  6. according to mr. paladini talking to Sky sports news he still hopes to complete the takeover and the only thing thats changed is that his exclusive period has ended so Rhodes and Lawn can talk to other interested parties if they wish..

  7. Any info at all Jason on who the other interested parties might be???

    • No names have been put forward to me. I have heard one of the two chairmen (and won’t disclose which one) is keen to sell and the other to carry on, so it could be one of the current chairmen is part of a future consortium.

      • I don’t think you need to disclose which chairman to be honest, based on what’s in the public domain.

        I completely sympathise and think some kind of ownership change is inevitable. I’d like ‘the other one’ to remain in some capacity because if you can’t have faith in someone who’s been through the roughest of times with the club then who can you have faith in?

  8. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We’ve a happy and succesful working partnership and relationship right through the club and i’m more than happy that that will continue to be the case. Unless major investment happens at 2 or 3 of our rival League 1 clubs over the summer,I can’t see any reason why a couple of key additions won’t mean we’ll be very close to promotion this term.
    Millwall and Blackpool are in a right state, Wigan (despite some quality players still on their books) aren’t much better off. Swindon will be right up there (unless they lose any of their top players, but other than that, who else can you be sure to be up there next season?? I’d have had Sheff Utd challenging if they still had Nigel Clough in charge, but their management change throws that up in the air, so it’s a great opportunity for us to make our mark. And should we get to the Championship, we’ll cross the funding issues as we get to them, but what a lovely issue that would be.

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