Who Is The Main Player In The Everton Show?

The murky world of offshore loans and the ownership of Everton Football Club.

Who Is The Main Character In The Everton Show?

By @WatchedToffee

For the outsider, the TV pundit required to state an opinion, or even the loyal supporter, it is easy to understand the media’s dismissive attitude towards recent demonstrations by Everton fans at Southampton, and their subsequent display at Barnsley.

Everton are not fighting relegation. They’ve had the odd brush with it during the reign of Bill Kenwright, granted. But they’re an established top ten club in the richest league in the world.

Everton are not facing the imminent financial meltdown that befell clubs such as Glasgow Rangers, Leeds, Liverpool, Blackburn and Portsmouth to name but a few.

With relatively little debt and controlled player expenditure, Everton appear the very model of prudent financial management.

They haven’t been taken over by scheming foreigners who have piled debt on the club and who care little for the club’s traditions; they appear to be run by the self-acclaimed biggest Evertonian, one of their own, so to speak.

So why are fans of this club continually witnessing dissatisfaction and unrest from a section of their support which is focused on the club’s directors and their management team?

Unrest that has been bubbling under the surface at Goodison Park for more than a decade.

Despite being trophy-less for more than twenty years, Everton still remain one of England’s most successful clubs with great traditions and history in the game. Discounting all other methods, this is the gauge, success on the pitch, by which all football clubs are measured.

For current Everton Chairman, Bill Kenwright, to preside over the most fruitless period in the club’s 137 year history could be seen as unfortunate by some, but understandable to others, once the facts are uncovered.

Uncovering these facts is where the problems begin. This isn’t a simple story, not one which an under pressure journalist could devote too much time to, when easily written column inches are more readily available and understood.

Larger than life. Bill Kenwright (left) with current CEO, Robert Elstone.

Let’s be honest, for those ignorant of the facts, Bill Kenwright is a great front man for Everton. He’s affable, he’s always ready with a tall tale at the drop of a hat, he’s a larger than life character with a great backstory in an ever increasing drab world of club owners who care little more than obtaining a return on their investment.

But scratch the surface and all is not what it appears.

For the hardened fans, especially those from the straight talking City of Liverpool, Kenwright is widely seen as a charlatan, a story teller that can never be trusted.

Whilst Kenwright has carefully nurtured an image of a local boy with holes in his shoes watching his beloved Everton heroes from the boys pen to the directors box, the more astute know he was a middle class lad with a privileged background from the affluent Mossley Hill suburb who had a season ticket at six years old.

Even this is open to debate, as well documented evidence from his early theatre career points to his love being for those “across the park.”

Could this be true? Could Bill Kenwright really pull off such a deception?

Well, as many of those previously mentioned Evertonians already know, Kenwright has been leading the club’s fans and shareholders a merry dance for years.

Stories of ring-fenced money to go towards a stadium on the city’s iconic waterfront, that a genius, once in a generation star player wouldn’t be sold, “not even for £50m,” that a potential investor was an Evertonian, and that his cheque would be in the bank in the morning pale into insignificance, when the stories surrounding Everton receiving a £52million subsidy from Tesco to build another new stadium are examined.

These are just a few samples of the lies that roll effortlessly from the lips of a fantasist, a spinner of yarns, that has fooled the many, but most definitely not the few.

The controversial relocation to Kirkby eventually failed

But, are these harmless white lies or damaging insights into a facade that will eventually kill one of England’s greatest clubs? It’s a difficult question and one that can only be answered by separating the truth from Kenwright’s persona.

One which he carefully weaves into Everton folklore, in a bid to mask the truth which is hidden in his takeover of a club which he claims to have saved sixteen years ago.

True Blue Holdings

In 1999 Kenwright’s consortium, True Blue Holdings (TBH), finally obtained control of the club at a time when fans saw turmoil on and off the pitch at Goodison Park.

Liverpudlian owner Peter Johnson sold to Evertonian Bill Kenwright. Things, as they say, could only get better. Couldn’t they?

Hidden in that takeover are the mysteries that have led to equally mysterious links between Everton Football Club and offshore organisations.

23% of the club is owned by a BVI registered company allegedly operated by businessman Robert Earl, a close friend of billionaire retail magnate Sir Philip Green, whose complex financial structures sees the British Exchequer lose hundreds of millions of pounds through tax avoidance schemes operated by Green and his wife Tina.

Many links exist between Philip Green, Kenwright and Everton. None more so obvious than when chairman Bill Kenwright confirmed in 2004 that a £15m facility was available from Green at the time of a proposed takeover by the Fortress Sports Fund (FSF); a Brunei based investment fund fronted by Christopher Samuelson.

Indeed, Samuelson was the person who Kenwright paraded as an Evertonian before assembled shareholders at the AGM. However, some of those in attendance saw through the scam and exposed him.

Samuelson went on to play a part in the demise of Reading Football Club.

Current director Robert Earl’s shares in Everton were purchased from Paul Gregg in 2006. Gregg was founder of the Apollo Leisure Group, and, with Kenwright, formed the True Blue Holdings consortium in 1999. Paul Gregg’s involvement with this takeover, or to be more accurate, his family’s involvement cannot be overlooked.

Paul’s wife, Anita, provided a £7m loan to Kenwright which was the sum of his investment in True Blue Holdings and therefore Everton. Kenwright likes to tell the story that he mortgaged his house for Everton. However, closer inspection reveals two things. Firstly, that it must have been some house to raise £7m! Secondly, paperwork reveals he had already mortgaged his house four years earlier.

As will be seen, Kenwright’s theatrical training makes him believe that fiction is always better than fact when telling a story.

Four years after the takeover, there was a very public falling out between Kenwright and Paul Gregg over the direction in which the club was heading. The proposed new home for Everton, the King’s Dock stadium, was also a point of disagreement between them.

Gregg had offered to fund the stadium through a reverse mortgage. This would have seen the Gregg family increase their equity in the club to greater than that owned by Bill Kenwright, making them the majority shareholder at Everton.

The proposed Kings Dock stadium

Kenwright resisted this attempt using the FSF masquerade. Paul Gregg left the board of Everton FC in October 2006, ending his family’s association with the club.

Gregg later told Everton pressure group KEIOC that he had been paid for the shares, sold to Robert Earl, by Sir Philip Green – shares that went on to be registered in the British Virgin Islands to a company called BCR Sports which Robert Earl described as a “family investment”- BCR are indeed the initials of his children’s names.

As Paul Gregg made clear, Green assisted Kenwright in his removal from the board by purchasing his shares on behalf of the current chairman. It takes no great leap of faith to believe he must have completed the job by providing additional money to pay off the money owed by Kenwright to Anita Gregg.

Mrs. Gregg severed all ties with Everton on exactly the same day as her husband.

In 2008, the then CEO of Everton, Keith Wyness, resigned from Everton on a matter of principal, citing Sir Philip Green’s control over the club.

After Wyness submitted employment tribunal papers, it was reported in The Times that Sir Philip Green and Robert Earl raced across the Mediterranean in Green’s powerful yacht, “Lionheart,” to meet with Wyness and reach a mutually agreeable compensation package.

This included the signing of a confidentiality agreement, one which has been adhered to by Wyness.

Vibrac Corporation, Mousehole Limited and James Grant Group

In 2011, following the financial crash and the high street banks subsequent refusal to provide loans to many football clubs, Everton, who had previously borrowed from Barclays and Investec, began borrowing money from the Vibrac Corporation. They are registered in Tortola, at the same accommodation address as BCR Sports.

Vibrac’s loans were promoted to the football industry by the James Grant Group. The history of this organisation is extremely interesting, with many of the names involved being familiar to Evertonians.

The roots of the James Grant Group can be found in several Formation Group companies specifically through a £21million Management Buy Out (MBO), arranged by Gresham Private Equity which saw five companies, James Grant Media Ltd, O.J. Kilkenny & Co Ltd, Proactive Sports Management USA Inc, Formation Sports Capital Ltd and Proactive Sports Management, sold to form the James Grant Group Ltd.

The acrimonious MBO was led by the then Formation Group CEO & Director, and now CEO of James Grant Group, Neil Rodford. Rodford had earlier been the managing director of Fulham Football Club and Harrods Holdings.

In 2014, he used Investec to fund another MBO, this time paying off Gresham Equity for the James Grant Group; the chairman of James Grant Group is Daniel Levy, chairman of Tottenham Hotspur.

JG Funding Limited

Only last month, August 2015, Everton borrowed an as yet unspecified sum from James Grant (JG) Funding. JG Funding provide funds from yet another BVI registered company, Mousehole Limited, via a number of equally anonymous Isle of Man investment vehicles.

Mousehole Limited also uses the same accommodation address in Tortola as that used by BCR Sports, and Vibrac Corporation.

It is understood that Vibrac Corporation and Mousehole Limited are controlled by a single anonymous investor, likewise, it is known Mousehole Limited has previously funded Espanyol, Getafe and Valencia, as well as providing finance to Hertha Berlin for a controversial scheme involving a share in the future sales value of two players. Thereby attempting to circumnavigate the ban on third party ownership.

An intriguing coincidence is that Everton, Fulham and Espanyol, all recipients of loans from these organisations, are also beneficiaries of money from the heavily investigated Power8 company.

Power 8 recently vanished from their Barcelona offices and can be traced back to convicted Australian fraudster, Bryan Leonard Cook, who is currently serving a 21-month prison sentence in Germany after being extradited from Switzerland.

Consequently, an investigation by Spanish authorities into the Espanyol/Power8 partnership, saw the money of inexperienced, poorly protected investors into Power8 clawed back from Espanyol’s sponsorship deal to contribute towards the settlement of a €40m tax bill.

Apart from Everton, Vibrac has provided funding for several English clubs including Southampton, Fulham, Reading and West Ham United.

West Ham United having similarly obtained a further loan against future Premier League broadcasting rights from JG Funding in August 2015, and whose director, Karren Brady, recently gave a forthright public defence of Bill Kenwright.

Brady is also a director of a company called Taveta Investments, described as an investment vehicle for Philip Green. Its shares are 100% owned by his wife Tina Green, and in reality is used as a conduit to move money offshore, thereby avoiding hundreds of millions of taxes payable to the exchequer in the UK.

Three names repeatedly crop up throughout this web of companies. The first is Graham Shear, a lawyer at London-based Berwin Leighton Paisner, who acts for Vibrac and has connections to Mousehole, JG Funding and the Isle Of Man investment vehicles, Kirkton Investments and Carroch Holdings.

Shear also has links with the third party deals by MSI, Pini Zahavi and Kia Joorabchian, and associates with Sir Philip Green, Joe Lewis, Robert Earl, Mike Ashley and Daniel Levy. The Gareth Bale deal was also handled by Graham Shear.

The second name is David McKnight. McKnight’s company, Capital Sports Solutions, was acquired by the Formation Group and then the James Grant Group MBO. David McKnight was until April 2015, a director of JG Funding Limited.

Fans demonstrate at Barnsley.

The third name is that of Sir Philip Green, said to be obsessed with making deals, his name is deeply woven into the extremely rich tapestry of the multi-billion pound football industry and, despite denials, he is inextricably linked to Everton Football Club. A link which in some way explains the extremely weak, as in nonexistent, investment history of Everton’s board over the past 16 years.

The conclusions reached when researching Everton’s links to murky offshore dealings and “innovative” finance, go some way to explaining the incredible fact that none of the current Everton FC director’s has invested a single penny into the club. “Their” business.

But then why would they invest in something that isn’t their own?

One thing all Evertonians agree on is that any business starved of investment will die. Everton are currently in a very vicious circle of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.

If catastrophe finally strikes, those who see Blue Bill as the character he has invented, should have the common decency to admit that they were wrong. To themselves if no one else; that they were naive, and taken in by someone others saw straight through.

Blind loyalty is a dangerous trait. It is high time all Evertonians began using their brains and not just their hearts.

Much of the information regarding the documents mentioned in this article can be currently accessed, free of charge. at the Companies House beta website. Simply enter a company name in the search engine, e.g: EVERTON FOOTBALL CLUB COMPANY,LIMITED (THE)

Read and click on the embedded Tweets below for more details on the JG Funding loan borrowed by the Everton board of directors against the 2016/17 Premier League basic fund and broadcasting rights: