CONTROVERSIAL businessman John Batchelor - who now seems to be in pole position to buy Mansfield Town Football Club - answers some of the questions you have posed on Chad.co.uk today (Thursday).
Mr Batchelor - hated by some football fans for taking York City into administration - has promised to be 'open' with Stags fans about his plans for the club.
Chad has exclusively revealed over recent days how he first was in talks to join the James Derry consortium, came to Field Mill last weekend and then appeared to go it alone with a solo bid for the Stags.
Derry consortium OUT of takeover talks
I have asset-stripped companies, admits would-be Stags owner
If you have a question for Mr Batchelor, post it below or via e-mail to Tim Morriss before 5pm Friday, and Mr Batchelor has promised to answer.
Here are his replies to questions posed by fans:
robbie33: Is it really such a wise idea to invest in MTFC?
After your previous history in football, Mansfield fans are all doom and gloom and a number are not going to buy season tickets next year because of your involvement in the club.
How can you turn MTFC into a money making business if there is no confidence in you from businesses and fans alike? How will you persuade people that you will be trying your upmost to make MTFC successful again?
In what way do you differ from Keith Haslam, in terms of running a football club? After 6 weeks of knowing him, I'm sure you will have some idea of the way KH works.
JB: People will make their own decisions, if (in the words of my illustrious predecessor at York, Douglas Craig) they don't like what we have on offer then they don't have to come do they? I will budget for no fans turning up at the ground, which really every club should do. As you will have seen from my replies, I am not trying to attract negative thinkers, either get behind this, or watch football somewhere else. IF I am successful in achieving ownership, this will be MY club, MY business and up to me to provide entertainment, it is MY risk. Come and watch if you want. I'm sorry if all of that sounds a bit brutal, but those would be the facts of life, and I do not want to get off on the wrong foot by telling anybody something that is misleading, as I said in an earlier response I have that T-shirt. What do you want? I would have thought that it would be better to start off with honest responses. I am in this to make money, I'll only achieve that if MTFC works on and off the pitch.
Dot: Ok John, how many companies have you bought? How many have you closed/liquidated/sent into administration? How many do you own now? How many ever survived very long, say 12 months? How many ever improved/thrived under your ownership/stewardship?
It just sounds as though you make your money from buying companies, selling the assets upon administration and leaving behind unpaid debts. Or am I being cynical?
JB: You are not being cynical at all, that is the way it works when companies are in trouble, however, I can and will point you in the direction of some that have worked. I would however, need the permission of their current owners as I sold them on. About 13 have survived and about 15 have failed. But I have made a profit out of most.
Wise Man From York: "I increased season ticket sales by blah blah blah". Was this the act of desperation when you sold season tickets for 2003/04 in OCT 2002, at HALF THE 02/03 PRICE, WEEKS BEFORE YOU DISAPEARED? For any doubters, check the link (and more worryingly, note the way that the local press and the fans fell for this 'scheme')...
JB: Well, once again we go there, we sold more tickets that year than any other, not only that, I underwrote the tickets, so in effect the Trust that eventually owned the club managed to get two and a half times the income that it would have received. You may not want to accept it but those are the facts. We sold them once, the trust sold them again, and I contributed a third figure, which would have been even greater, if the club had adhered to the agreement we had. (sorry if this boring those of you who were not involved at the time) It is illustrative of the mindless arguments that club owners have to put up with though
Wise Man From York: Good evening John - I see you've ditched the shocking shirts from 2002, but picked up a matching tie for your latest plaything. 2 questions for you
JB: I thought those shirts were quite fetching………judging by the number we sold, so did the fans!
Wise Man From York: Q1. do you recall this Q&A from March 2002: Q - If it costs (say) X million to acquire York City Football Club and Bootham Crescent, where precisely is this money coming from? That is, who are the parties? How much are they each investing? Is any of the funding from a property development company?
A - Details of the take-over will almost certainly be subject to a confidentiality clause. However, where possible I will make known the names of the individuals who will become board members of York City Football Club.
JB: Different this time, I think I'm allowed to have learned from previous experience. No property developers involved, no other investors involved and proof of funding already provided to the club.
No such problem in this case, given up trying to hide anything. I just haven't decided who will be on the board yet, if anyone.
Wise Man From York:
Q2. Do I recall rightly that you disappeared into the Cheshire sunset and your nice new abode sometime after the 400K from Persimmons Homes went walkies from York City, leaving York City 'Sporting Club' far further up the creak than when you arrived wielding your golden 1 coin?
JB: You recall correctly.
bramble stag: hey mr joker. you say we have to stay in div 2, tell us all what happens if we go down in the next four weeks.
JB: Then we have to deal with it, but I'd rather try and keep us up.
Martin Shaw: From what we can gather, you are the most hated man in York. Do you understand why that is? Our colleagues at the York City Supporters tell us that we should not let you anywhere near our football club. Why would they tell us that? Are you a reformed character since you were at York?
JB: No not reformed, just better informed, and part of that knowledge has led me to an understanding that supporters clubs are usually "all mouth and no trousers".You make the judgement of me yourself, not based on what these brave web warriors have to say, but on what I do or don't do. If I make a mistake I'll hold up my hand, I can, and have got it wrong, but I'm hiding nothing.
Croceus Laurus: Ok Mr Batchelor - What exactly are you buying from Mr Haslam ? Is Field Mill part of the deal ? What about the 3.3% Team Mansfield own - Will they recieve monies or a place on the board? Will you be Chief Executive and Chairman - I assume not due to regulations so whos coming with you ? Will the fans have any say at all in the running of the club - 15 years under Haslams leadership has seen us relegated from the league ( Only a miracle will keep us up) and York City had a particularly rough time under your stewardship so I, and I expect everyone connected to MTFC has concerns over any deal –
Surely you must understand this ?
JB: I do understand this, I am buying the club, I don't know about the land yet, but the club will confirm that I have funding for it.As far as I can see the 3.3% is not relevant, other than the rights that they would have over their shareholding in relation to the shareholders agreement which they have. I will, if successful, be Chairman, and as we sit here tonight, I don't think anyone is coming with me. No, the fans don't get a say, a seat on the board or any of that stuff, been there before, it doesn't work because all you have is a mouth with no responsibility or risk, any fool can do that. I will listen to customers, if they are level headed and constructive, my experience of dealing with mouthy fans is that they are usually "armchair critics", no doubt, if they don't like what we put on the pitch, then they won't turn up, and that wouldn't be a very sensible way for me to go would it? I am sorry if throughout the course of the evening I sound blunt, but this whole event has sent memories of my time at York flooding back, when I was there I tried hard to get everyone onside, and for a while that worked. This time I just want to tell the truth, get things sorted and try to make it work, there are no guarantees in life and I do not have a crystal ball, all I will promise, is that given the level of investment, I'll do my best.
Robbie: Who were all the businessman (excluding Derry and Hymas of course) who you were chatting to in the Village in Bury on Saturday? Are any of them going to be involved in your bid?
Robbie: Does the fact that you are answering these questions imply that you are the new owner of MTFC?
Robbie: Is this just another money-making scheme or do you have any sympathy with long-suffering MTFC supporters?
JB: I hope so and Yes!
andy stag: How much rent are you paying for the ground?
JB: I'd like not to pay any, but to do that I have to buy the ground
andy stag: How do you intend to increase the commercial activities at the club?
JB: Sponsorship and a Media deal
andy stag: How much of the commercial income will you take as a commission?
JB: At least 25%
andy stag: Do you intend to appoint a new manager immediatly if you take over?
JB: No, but I can offer him some support
bux46: I have read all your answers and not one mention of trying to buy back the ground has been mentioned
JB: That's because we haven't arranged that so far
bux46: What is your long term objective for the club and i am not talking the obvious of promotion or staying in the league
JB: To use it as a vehicle to show that football can be done in a different way. i.e. that sometimes tradition and fixed idea's get in the way of a business, and in footballs case an industry, and prevent it from moving on.
As I said in an earlier answer, I do not buy into the club being a community resource, it's a business in the sport and entertainment industry, if we don't provide an appropriate level of service/performance, people won't come and it won't succeed. My job is to ensure that the club works at all levels, but if anybody else wants a say in that, then they have to invest and take risk. Frankly, I got sick to death of football fans saying that they wanted a say in how the club was run when I was at York. Do you get a say in how Tesco's is run? No, But we all use it every week don't we? If any fans want to share the not inconsiderable burden of running the club, then they are welcome, but not for free.
burned, lancs: I cant believe this guy is allowed to keep getting away with this. He goes into companies puts them under and then moves onto the next one. unbelievable, this guy has no conscience.
JB: Don't always put them under, but you are right, I have had to develop a skin thicker than a Rhino.
Claire: He's said that he's made money by closing several companies, won't buy any property incase one of his creditors actually wants their money back and he has no consideration for any of the lives he has wrecked? Is this all true Mr Batchelor?
JB: I do not set out to ruin companies, I set out to save them. If the management teams can't deliver I close them, it's a simple scenario either it works, because everyone delivers what they say they are going to do, or it doesn't because they don't. I have lost all emotion in it (normal business), but in any event, even, hard as this has made me, I am prepared to gamble on MTFC. As far as protecting assets that I have acquired, YES that's true, if you worked hard to own something, would you risk it being taken off you, if you worked in the shark tank that I do? No, I suspect you would want to protect your immediate loved ones.
50 years a stags supporter: Mr Batchellor, If you are as stated only interested in the survival
of the club, WHY DID YOU SCUPPER AN EXISTING BID (in which you were invited to be part of)IN FAVOUR OF YOUR INDIVIDUAL BID? An honest answer please!!!! are you genuinely interested in the continuance of MTFC within the football league,or merely to assett strip yet another company? FINALLY WHY SHOULD WE TRUST YOU????
JB: I would, if this was a normal deal, consider asset stripping the club if it didn't work. In this case, however, I am having to put a substantial sum up to acquire it. There are no assets to strip that I can get my hands on that would be equivalent to the amount invested. In other words, I think that the ONLY way to make this club pay back its investment to me is to make it work, and I mean by making it work, make it pay its own way and make a profit. There are a number of things that can be done to do that, but until I own it, and although the vendors know about them, I can't reveal them. Everybody involved, knows that I wanted a football club to make these things happen, everybody has had it proven to their satisfaction that these things are real, everybody knows that I have looked at other clubs, I cannot say anything other than I would support any club I was involved with, in the same way that a player transferred to us would or a manager that moves clubs would. But please understand that this is business, and anyone buying a business would want it to succeed.
Aye Up Me Duck asks:HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN KEITH HASLAM?
JB: About six weeks
Bermuda Viper:You say you stopped motorsport due to a lack of time, how would you make enough time to run a club like Mansfield?
JB: I've done it before, and I am putting a fair bit of investment into it, so it is worth my time.
Infoman, Lancs: ok where the salary's for the staff at Besglos. wheres your Bentley? does your wife know whats going on?
Why did you screw over one of your closest friends?
JB: The salary for the former staff of that company is a matter for the administrator, I've swapped my Bentley for a Jag (to do this!) and my wife hates what's going on, she cannot understand why I want to be involved in football
Ste1053: Who are the team of 3 that would come in to manage the team ?and have you got any other backers?
JB: Can't say, as I promised them I wouldn't until the deal was done
Bermuda Viper: It would appear that your other companies aren't in too great shape either if taking Plasline UK Ltd as an example. What's to say MTFC wouldn't end up with a similar amount of county court judgements? At the end of the day the people of Mansfield want a solution to the problem, not to be in a situation where they are saying "come back Keith, all is forgiven".
JB: Plasline isn't, wasn't and never has been mine, either directly or as a nominee, I know it, I looked at it, but we never exchanged on it. MTFC could be in that position, BUT only if people don't perform (and if I hadn't produced proof of a significant investment in it), both on and off the pitch over the next two years, in this instance I have had to raise and invest a significant number, most distressed businesses can be purchased for less.
Stags til I die: in your interview you quoted that you made a profit of about 120,000 pounds over 18 months in total.
and you did not take a salary`and you could have made far more than that elsewhere.Is that why you intend to buy M.T.F.C and make a bigger profit and be another K. Haslam? also you stated that you gave the management 6 months to deliver, they didnt so you closed them down.Are you going to do that to M.T.F.C if successfull? to be honest mr Batchelor i dont belive in you, however if you take over M.T.F.C i want you to prove me wrong.I would be the 1st person to say i was wrong.all the best and good luck.
JB: I hope that I do prove you wrong, but I am not doing this for a laugh, there is a business here, it can make money, but only if it is run as a business, I have already told chad that I will publish what I make out of my input. I love football, clubs can work, but only if you don't start out by trying to be popular (I have worn that T-shirt) we all know that the best way for all of us, moving forward, is to make sure we stay in the league. From your perspective because you love your club, from mine because I want to make a profit, how much clearer can I be? At York, I tried to be everybody's best mate………..and tried my best, however, it didn't work, so you might as well all know who I am from day one. There is no point in me trying to pretend to you that I am something I am not. I am an opportunist, I try hard and I can make things work, but we ALL need to get together and behind this if we are going to keep the club up. As is well known, I am a Burnley fan, but over and above that I am a football fan, it can be done differently, let's make Mansfield the example for that.
infoman, Lancs: he also screwed over a company called Moornate. left the owner with nothing after promising him monies
JB: His Lawyers failed him in a property deal, didn't register the deal and I took advantage of it.
simon burrows: Will you be starting with a zero balance ala Derry circus (I mean consortium)?
Have you had any say on Paul Holland releasing six players?
JB: No say in anything yet
adopted Stag: Given your "dubious" past business dealings do you think that local businesses will be queuing up to provide sponsorship, and how do you plan to get supporters to back you in the short term with all this negativity surrounding you?
JB: By winning on the field, I can make money from sponsorship, however, if we don't win on the field, it makes no difference what I do off it. Nobody has to like me, they just have to judge me on results. A lesson I learned at York, however, we did avoid relegation, and were never out of the play off places when I was there.
infoman, Lancs: Where on earth has he got 1/2 million from? He lives in a rented house under his girlfriends name he owns nothing. Has had is cars taken away and was thrown out of his last home which he rented but never paid for months. Just ask Lord Houghton. What about the companys Cobco 846 and 847
JB: You are speculating on the amount, I own nothing, because I choose to own nothing, if I make a mistake, nobody can chase me for anything, it is a standard practice in my world. If you buy something, make sure that nobody can take it off you. Sir Bernard de Houghton, is who I think you mean, and I rented a wing of his stately home for a while, he didn't like me using it as an office/workplace, and I didn't like being told what to do, we parted company! Cobco 846/7 were acquisition vehicles run by my nominees, we used them to acquire and close down Besglos and Moornate.
adam999: We dont need another asset stripping. Reading what youve said the reading the facts ur not at all different from mr haslam.
Football is a business ur supposed to invest in not take money from.
If you are not prepared to invest without taking back in assets or in money then we dont need you.
What makes you any different than haslam?
JB: Why can you not be allowed to make a profit from football? The players do, the managers do the owners should. It is then up to the owners to decide how much they want to re-invest. That will probably dictate how successful they are going to be. I do not buy into the idea that Football is a community resource, if that is the case, the community need to support it.
robbie 33: Would you work with the community, SSA, TM etc and employ people from the respective fans' groups onto the board to allow MTFC fans to have a say in the running of the club?
JB: See above, but if the fans want a say in how it is run, then they can buy some shares…………I've had to. Working with the community is always a good idea, BUT it shouldn't be assumed that the club is doing it for any other reasons than to catch fans at an early age. Any club that says anything else is lying to you
GB1: Have you recieved any positive press in your carear? Could you blame anyone for not trusting you?
JB: Yes and No