Building firm boss says ‘Indian consortium’ bid to buy Northampton Town was ‘unconvincing from the start’

Paul Wheeler of Buckingham Group, said he was not convinced by the Indian consortium's offer to buy Cobblers and confirmed he had met with one of the businessmen involved - Enfield man Ravi Rach.
Paul Wheeler of Buckingham Group, said he was not convinced by the Indian consortium's offer to buy Cobblers and confirmed he had met with one of the businessmen involved - Enfield man Ravi Rach.

The Indian consortium who came close to buying Northampton Town were “extremely unconvincing”, according to the boss of the firm contracted to rebuild Sixfields.

It has now been confirmed that Enfield-based businessman Ravi Rach was part of the mystery group of people who had signed a heads of term agreement to buy Cobblers in June.

The leader of the consortium was based in Mumbai.

When the men pulled out of the deal a fortnight ago, a spokesman working for them claimed they “had drawn up detailed plans to pay off the club’s debts and upgrade the club’s infrastructure, re-developing the stadium and building a new training ground, as well as investing in the playing squad”.

Director of Buckingham Group Limited, Paul Wheeler, confirmed Mr Rach had held meetings with him and colleagues to talk about the builders returning to Sixfields if a deal could be struck.

Buckingham Group is still owed £3 million for unpaid works at Sixfields.

But in a frank interview with the Chronicle & Echo yesterday, Mr Wheeler said he was not impressed by the bid Mr Rach’s consortium put forward.

“I don’t think he was a serious contender at any stage,” he said. “He did introduce himself to us with his brother. But we gave them 11 weeks to provide us with information that supported the fact they had the financial collateral to do the deals they were talking about.

“We never saw any real evidence of that. We found them extremely unconvincing.”

Company background checks reveal Mr Rach has a background in property development as well as previous appointments in the clothing industry.

However Mr Wheeler believes the announcement that Mr Rach’s consortium were interested in buying the club “could be seen as extremely convenient”, as it came a few weeks after Buckingham Group builders moved off site in June and acted as a distraction from the halted stadium development.

In response, Northampton Town chairman David Cardoza said: “We were provided with proof of funds and the consortium was going through due diligience. Every indication was that it was going to happen but it obviously didn’t.”

But Mr Wheeler said Buckingham Group would be willing to return to finish the East Stand at Sixfields, despite having to move workers off site twice when the firm was not paid, if the company was assured payment for their work.

However he confirmed an initial meeting with former Oxford United chairman Kelvin Thomas, who is in talks with buying Northampton Town, went well.

He said: “We met with Kelvin Thomas and David Bower, who both worked to together at Oxford United in the past. We had a good chat with them.

“They seemed to be genuinely interested in the possibility of taking over the football club,” he added.

David Bower is the partner of Bower and Bailey Solicitor, based in Oxford.

“They are obviously dealing with some fairly complex issues there at the moment,” Mr Wheeler added.

But Mr Wheeler said the last two years had been a trying time for Buckingham Group, a stadium building specialist with a proud reputation.

He said; “The whole episode has been a huge embarrassment for us.

“We really rue the day we ever got involved in this development.”

And he went on to say: “People look at what is standing there and they say how can that be worth £3 million?

“What people perhaps don’t appreciate, is that twice we have had to stand still on the site and pay a lot of people for doing nothing.

“There are lots of abortive costs that rack up in those circumstances.

“We have had to pay sub-contractors to go away - the cost just escalated.”

A statement on behalf of the Indian consortium was issued yesterday afternoon.

“It was with great regret that, after months of detailed negotiations, we were no longer able to pursue our interest in buying Northampton Town Football Club,” it read.

“At no point were we ever less than absolutely committed to the takeover of the club, and proof of funds for the takeover was directly provided to chairman David Cardoza and other relevant parties upon request.

“Throughout the process both David Cardoza, David Kennedy and Northampton Borough Council were extremely supportive of our engagement and vision for the club.

“The consortium understands the fans’ interest in our involvement and the frustrations regarding the takeover process. However, the purchase was never a vanity project, and had the takeover been completed, the head of the consortium and club’s new chairman would have been immediately announced.

“Whilst we will not be commenting on those involved in the consortium, we can confirm the consortium is headed by an Indian business leader based in Mumbai.

“We would like to take this opportunity to again wish the club and its supporters the very best for the future. We are delighted to see the team in the play-off places following the mid-week win over Carlisle and we will continue to keenly follow the club’s progress both on and off the pitch.”