EXCLUSIVE: Financiers claim to have made ‘sound’ offer to develop Sixfields but Cardozas chose County Group

North London based businessmen nearly bought a 50 per cent stake in Cobblers back in 2013.
North London based businessmen nearly bought a 50 per cent stake in Cobblers back in 2013.
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A financier who was part of a consortium has confirmed they were on the cusp of buying half of Northampton Town in 2013 but their development offer was trumped by the County Group.

The North London-based consortium has claimed they were to close buying a 50 percent share in the Cobblers through 2012 and 2013 after numerous meetings with David Cardoza.

David Cardoza, chairman of Northampton Town Football Club in 2013.

David Cardoza, chairman of Northampton Town Football Club in 2013.

Their aim was to invest an undisclosed figure into developing the former landfill site around Sixfields Stadium and splitting the profits with then owners David and Anthony Cardoza.

The deal, they claim, would have been a joint venture leaving the Cardozas to run the football club, while they ploughed on with plans to develop a hotel, about 180 houses, a conference centre and retail around the ground.

The financial backer, 56, who has various interests in commercial and residential property in the south and the Midlands had reached advanced stages of negotiations for the consortium to become a part owner and was even in the process of being courted by Northampton officials.

He attended the 2013 play-off final against Bradford at Wembley, sitting at the pre-match lunch alongside various dignitaries attending the event.

But in the early summer of 2013 he claims he was told by the Cardozas that they would not be accepting their offer.

He claims the Cardozas had agreed to enter into a joint venture with Bushey businessman Howard Grossman. One of Mr Grossman’s firms which fell under the County Group umbrella, 1st Land, would later also win the contract to develop Sixfields Stadium using the £10.25 million loan from Northampton Borough Council.

The financier said: “Everything was looking rosy.

“They knew there might be some problems developing the land, but were close to agreeing terms.”

The financier said he called either the Cardozas on a Friday in late spring 2013 with a view to getting the deal finished.

But they called him back the following Monday and said they would be going with Howard Grossman.

He says he was told Mr Grossman with his son Marcus had flown to meet the Cardozas in France in a private jet especially to sign the deal.

Later that year it was announced Mr Grossman’s company, 1st Land Limited, would take over the development of Sixfields Stadium, while another company under his County Group umbrella would handle the wider development on 33 acres around the ground.

The consortium has spent tens of thousands in drawing up plans for the club.

The financier claims to have attracted a well-known hotel chain to the development and was working with a reputable house builder and housing association to develop the homes.

“I was pretty annoyed when I found out the deal was off,” the financier said.

“I said I think you are making a mistake, because my offer was sound.”

The council’s loan agreement intended that the £10.25 million would be paid back with proceeds from a development on the land round Sixfields.

As we now know, those loan repayments were not met.

County Group managed to obtain planning approval in principal for a retail park, conference centre, hotel and up to 255 homes on the land at the end of 2014, however as a deal over “section 106” planning sweeteners was never signed full permission was never granted.

The consortium said they were initially attracted to the League Two side because of the swathe of land around the ground, which they only discovered at after a third meeting, was a former landfill.

They estimated the land, deeply contaminated from its former usage, would have needed around £10 million in remedial works and as such would have made houses difficult, until this work was carried out.

The consortium had previously been in discussions with the receivers of Portsmouth Football Club and still have a good relationship with the trust and were part of the larger consortium that bid to the previous owners of Leeds United.

The Leeds United offer was made six months after the Cardozas pulled out to proceed with the County Group, the consortium has been in the market for a football club.

“I don’t know why they didn’t go with us, the financier said. “Maybe they thought they could make more money with what County Group were offering.

“We really went out of our way to show we were decent guys, to show we weren’t messing anyone around.”