Hornets' High Court battle: 'Board thought Bassini had own funds to run club' (From This Is Local London)
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Watford FC directors believed Laurence Bassini would fund Vicarage Road stadium improvements
Directors at Watford FC were under the impression former owner Laurence Bassini would fund improvements to the stadium from his own resources.
David Fransen, who had been on the Hornets board since 2009, told the High Court Mr Bassini inferred he had the funds to complete projects such as the South-West Corner of Vicarage Road.
The successful oil businessman and lifelong Watford fan said other directors had not been told at the time that Mr Bassini was organising future funding deals with the company LNOC.
Taking the stand on Tuesday, Mr Fransen said: “At the time of the sale of the club the promises he (Mr Bassini) gave – and we as directors were trying to make sure the club went to a decent new home – was he had funds available to run the club and do the necessary capital investment we had in the plan.
“That was his inference. He gave a verbal undertaking but nothing in writing that he had the funds to do that.”
Former owner Laurence Bassini (right) with partner Panos Thomas when he took over the club in March 2011.
Jonathan Davies-Jones QC, representing LNOC, said at the time of the takeover, Mr Bassini had made a commitment to provide a £3.5million “facility” to the club for capital projects. He had also committed to provide a £2.5million facility for repayment of the restructured secured bond, which consolidated the club’s previous debts.
The court heard it was agreed at a board meeting on June 30, which was attended by Mr Bassini, his advisor Angelo Barrea, then chairman Graham Taylor and board member Professor Stuart Timperley, to advance work on the South-West Corner.
Minutes from the meeting showed the board agreed to aim to have construction restarted on the unfinished project by that October.
Mr Fransen said work stopped in 2010 due to “cashflow” problems.
Mr Davies-Jones argued that finishing the project would provide a benefit to the club as it would mean more revenue.
He described the planned October start date as a “tight timetable” for the works and asked Mr Fransen if there was pressure on Mr Bassini to get it restarted.
Mr Fransen replied: “It was in the business strategy and was a priority among other priorities. Mr Bassini was tasked with arranging the finance for the project.
“It was one of the priorities as and when funding was available.”
Mr Davies-Jones also highlighted minutes at a later board meeting where Mr Timperley said it was important to have a public statement on the South-West Corner in time for a forthcoming fans’ forum.
He asked Mr Fransen if completing the project would have been good for the relationship between the club and the fans.
“Possibly,” answered Mr Fransen. “But the fans are more happy if the team is winning.”
Later in the hearing, Mr Timperley told the court the board had queried Mr Bassini about a £900,000 payment the club was making in February. He said they were told it was related to the construction of the South-West Corner.
Mr Timperley added: “It was a large sum of money and we wanted an explanation for that. We asked the question and that was the answer we got. We were not happy, as we had no details about what it was.”
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