The Gang of Three meet with Shareholders (1)

Bryn Jones asks questions as Paul Thompson, Clive Stapleton and Barry Hurst meet with shareholders

Tight-lip Thompsons bid for power started in some discomfort last night as over 250 shareholders packed into a room seating 200 people at the Moat House H/Motel in West Bromwich last night. Despite some searching and sceptical questioning Thompson, backed up with less sophistication by Messrs Hurst and Stapleton, seemed to make a favourable impression on at least half of the audience.

The gist of his appeal was that lots of money has been spent badly, little progress made and the club is facing a financial deficit. His own proposals remained at the level of generalisations. It took an intervention from Barry Hurst for him to agree that he would be chairman if the shareholders so desired. The only precise commitment was that he, personally, would put no more money into the club. My estimate was that PT probably had, or won over, about half of those present with a quarter suspicious or opposed and another quarter undecided.

In line with previous discussions on the mailing list, I sought answers to three main concerns:

What does PT want from control of the Club. Is he only looking to improve his financial investment?

He claimed that he was concerned to see the club, as an organisation, successful in general terms. He felt unhappy about not being involved in something that should do better. Financial returns were not his objective. He did not intend to sell up and would stay actively involved for at least three years. What do I need more money for? PT is fond of quoting his greengrocer fathers maxim: You can only eat one dinner. PT pointed out that he had written off a lot of the money he had invested in the Sheffield Eagles rugby club. He earlier claimed that this club had been relatively successful in beating Wigan to win the Rugby League cup, even though its attendances were only around 2,000.

How will decision-making be improved?

PT stressed that the widest involvement of all sections of the club were necessary to generate progress. One criticism of the Hale regime was that people were actively discouraged from getting involved. Because PT repeatedly invoked the need for further consultations as the reason for not being specific about his three-year action plan, I asked whether he would give shareholders the chance to vote on such a plan and its modification at the AGM. PT said that the AGM wasn't a suitable venue for this but some consultation with shareholders would be sought in other ways.

Why did the Gang of Three not out-vote Hale earlier if his decisions were so inappropriate?

I put this point to Clive Stapleton who did not answer it directly but gave the impression that opposition had been uncoordinated and that different directors took issue with Hale over different topics.

A few other points

  1. Personnel: If PT took over John Wile and Dennis Smith would stay in post. In the face of some critical questions about JWs competence, PT defended him saying that Wile has lots of ability but needed support and direction from the Chairman. Criticisms of DS were countered with the remark that we have not seen as much (of a contribution) from Dennis as might be there. Anyway he would be starting the season as manager and so had to be backed.
  2. Future funding: Though PT would not be putting any more of his own money into the club, he would be actively seeking new financial backers, and a few phone calls he had had since the calling of the EGM indicated that there were Baggies out there who wanted to put more money in. There were several references to a hypothetical input from someone called Barry Rubery and his 150 million. (Anyone know of this character?) PT would be seeking to raise about 5 million by bringing in outside investors. But he stressed that such figures would not be attracted unless there was a convincing business plan - which was his main objective.
  3. Hales mistakes: The main examples given were of players on whose contracts money had been lost: Groves, Crichton and Murphy. Opportunities were also lost, it was claimed, to sign loan players in the last couple of months of the season (names were mentioned) and to sign Carlton Palmer. PT claimed that Carlton was due to sign for Barnsley but the deal fell through. There was a gap of several weeks before Albion acted, just when Ron Atkinson took charge at Notts Forest, so just too late.
  4. Present/recent directors: There was no clear indication of whether Hurst and Stapleton would rejoin the board. PT said Joe Brandrick would be welcome to stay on board. Don Colston's position remained uncertain because he apparently lives overseas. However PT thought that there was no reason why DC should not fulfill his commitment to make a further investment if TH left. A hostile exchange between Clive Stapleton and Barry Reader (a critic of Barry Hurst and Clive Stapleton in the audience) led to the latter agreeing that he would be prepared to join the board under either Hale or the GoT. PT said the Board could be enlarged to accommodate more investors, but he wanted all Directors to be punching their weight financially and/or in terms of active involvement. PT felt his other commitments gave him enough time to devote to Albion affairs.


So this is the Thompson promise. No jam today - there's no money to spend now - but a more professionally organised way of getting jam tomorrow. Anything less than a top six place is unacceptable. You've paid your money, now make your choice.

In my opinion Thompson probably won over at least half of last nights audience. He also hinted that one of the big blocks of shares (presumably Graham Waldron) might come over to his side. The only way I can see Tony Hale trumping the Thompson appeal is by coming up with a hard cash commitment for the close season.

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