Has Christian Purslow Lost His Mind?

Posted: February 3, 2010 by mcdonaldtaf in Business, Finance
Tags: , , , , , ,

Lost for words. That would be the right term at the moment. Somewhere along the line I have been wrong and I have erred in my judgement. Yet the truth of the matter is I have no idea, still, where I’m wrong.

The two sets of minutes from the recent Christian Purslow and Spirit of Shankly meeting tell two equally compelling but different stories. On reading the Spirit of Shankly version of events it can be concluded that Christian has, along with RBS, lost patience with George Gillett and Tom Hicks. Statements such as “RBS are annoyed and unhappy with Hicks and Gillett and they want a change of ownership”, together with, “The promises of Hicks and Gillett are unforgivable. Hicks and Gillett cannot hang onto the club” appear emotively driven with a great degree of empathy for the Spirit of Shankly cause.

However Christian’s own version of the discussion tell a very different story. He states “The current lead bank RBS is highly supportive of the club” without making any reference to the club’s owners. Then within his final statements there are none of the emotive comments, no admission that Hicks and Gillett are out of money and a point raised about the potential harm done by protests and disturbances, a point not included within the Spirit of Shankly’s version of the meeting. This final point comes with a plea for peace when he says “it is tough to persuade new investors of the attraction of the club if they think they will get hassled every time they visit. So I again urge you all to think about this aspect and try and do the right thing.”

These differing views offer up two very concerning possibilities, depending on which version of events you are inclined to believe. I am proposing these different viewpoints without any inclination for either, both are as unpalatable as each other in my mind.

1. If you accept the Spirit of Shankly version – Christian Purslow is a bumbling idiot or a man driven by his emotive connection to the football club. He is either a genius and trying to squeeze the owners out of the door by causing this confusion, or, he really has lost track of his marbles. Within one meeting he has significantly weakened the negotiating stance of the club in any commercial or investment dealings. This version of events would indicate we need the money that desperately we’ll quite happily increase the equity available (well that’s what’s been splashed across most of the papers today).

If this version of events is true I have been wrong about Christian Purslow and his abilities. He should stand down from his position as Managing Director with immediate effect, despite saying what a number of fans wanted to hear. He is employed by the company and is either working against the wishes of the company’s shareholders, or, he is not competent to be in his position. Either of these scenarios make his position untenable. As a director he has a fiduciary duty to promote the success of the company, exercise reasonable care, skill and dilligence and avoid conflicts of interest. Based on this record of that meeting he has, in all likelihood, failed on at least two of the three.

2. If you accept the Christian Purslow version – If this is the case then the possibility of an underhanded plan being acted upon to ‘rock the boat’ is presented. Maybe that’s a bit over the top and certain things were just misheard or misinterpreted. Surely if that is the case though agreement could have been made on what was actually said? There is no denying that if the meeting happened in the way portrayed by Spirit of Shankly they must have thought all of their Christmases had come at once. The Managing Director of the club making, what he knew would become, a public statement about his own and the bank’s dislike of the owners. However if it happened as Christian suggests (without these comments) then why do they appear in the minute?

I have spoken many times of my admiration for some of the work Spirit of Shankly undertake. I’ve never been enthralled by their raison d’etre or some of their actions but I have been minded to join their ranks if the current talk of investment and therefore progress is not forthcoming. If their version of events is inaccurate though (and I am not saying it is – I simply don’t know) they have done our club a great dis-service.

There is an unlikely third option. It is difficult, indeed an art form, to be able to write minutes without putting forward your own ‘sway’ on the facts presented. The wrong style of delivery or the wrong word here or there and you can paint a very different picture to what was actually in front of you. Perhaps we have one party swaying one way with another going the other, due to the incumbent polarised views, resulting in two very different results. The truth actually lying somewhere in the middle. The strength of the different testimonies in this case would indicate this is not the case, but it remains a possibility.

Either way the damage is done. I’ve seen strong sentiment from some quarters about how the demonstrations are not affecting the club’s business. As someone who has worked in management, and run businesses for many years now, there is a naivety in this sentiment. At the very least, the very least, it impacts on the club’s ability to negotiate effectively. Every sponsor or potential investor can point to the palpable unrest and use it as a bargaining tool. Reduced deals, reduced revenues and a reduced value of the business. It’s happening so slowly it’s hard to see but we are, bit by bit, pulling our club apart. If it happens and we implode, here’s a vision of the future – the fans will blame the owners, the owners will blame the fans and Christian, Christian will blame Rafa, the fans and the owners – not that any of that will get us anywhere.

I’m not apportioning blame anywhere and I’m not even saying which one of the two options above I’m inclined to believe; to be honest I simply don’t know. I don’t see either party stepping forward or both coming together to agree what was an actual fair reflection of the meeting. I guess we’ll never know. More doubts, more concerns, less negotiating power, less value in the business, more fan unrest, more pressure… all of us The Owners, The Management, The Fans… we’re pulling our club apart!

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Comments
  1. Ian says:

    Very well put and highlighted my concerns about the effect on future investment and confidence in the club.

  2. Jonno says:

    Did no-one think of bringing a tape recorder to the meeting? I really find it suspicious that there is so much controversy over the minutes and yet there is no mention of even asking if it would be ok to record the interview. Did SOS ask if they could record and CP refuse? I think if that were the case then we would have heard about it.
    Sadly it just means that the interview was rather a waste of time since we have no fair way of judging either side. Better prepared next time hopefully.

  3. chr15wr1ght says:

    taking into account both sides of the discussion the bottom line seems to be we need £100m investment for a minority stake that will be used exclusively to pay down debt. i’m not a bussiness expert of any kind but that doesn’t look like a very attractive investment to me. that said my biggest worry is that there is no “plan B”. so the way i see it we’ve got an unattractive offer on the table or nothing! which clearly wont do otherwise we wouldn’t be looking for investment in the first place! sadly it seems like our best hope is for the banks to force the owners into a cheap sale of a majority stake and would anybody really want to trust the banks with the future of our club. as i say i’m no expert if anyone can see an alternative i’d love to hear it.

    • mcdonaldtaf says:

      Hi Chris, my understanding is that the £100m will be used to pay down the debt. The bank will then however agree a 4 year deal for a new facility which will include additional finance for the new stadium. It won’t pay for it all and I am assuming that the sale of the naming rights to the stadium will be required, as well as seeing increasing revenues continue.

      As an investment proposition if you say the £100m buys you 1/3 of the club, consider that Arsenal are now valued at somewhere in the region of £800m (following the completion of the Emirates). There is most certainly a return in the investment, if everything works out. Although who would invest into what is quite quickly becoming a shambles god only knows!

  4. wallybango says:

    Great read. I think that SOS have gone too far. CP is a fan and put his head on the line to have the meeting in the first place. By stitching him up like this SOS have made sure no one from this ownership or any other will ever trust them again. They should of had the meeting, released things both minutes agreed on, stated that some disagreements exist but that these will not be published. Even if they where unhappy with CP at the meeting at least he was meeting with them and is a fan. What if he gets sacked and a bad ass american lawyer type comes in and really messes us up.

    I also think SOS need to face up to the fact that CP is a fan but has responsibilities in his job. He cant just walk in and tell H+G they’re crap and what not. If he did that he would be out. He has to work with them to get the best for LFC. Personally I think we were damn lucky to get CP and we should listen to him.

    I am 100% against the americans and I agree in principle with what SOS are trying to do but I just wonder how many of them have any experience in the business world because their actions are certainly not always for the benefit of LFC. They need to take a step back and think what their ultimate goal is (should be for the good of LFC by whatever means) and act accordingly to those goals.

  5. RobboHuyton says:

    I don’t understand why so many people are questioning SOS on this issue. In my book they were absolutely spot on to release the information.

    I, for one, was sick of the constant PR spin coming from Purslow and frankly it annoys me how many people have swallowed his propaganda whole.

    All he has ever come out with is ifs and buts yet when you cut through it all, he’s said nothing and promised nothing – investment will be next month, next year, the stadium will be next month, next year…and so on.

    Oh and this ‘he is a massive fan’ is all part of the spin if you ask me. Why is he? Because he said he was. So was Robbie Keane. Now he’s a Celtic fan.

    So when Purslow finally revealed some truths – things that have come as no real surprise – why should SOS then agree to keep the truth quiet and go back to the spin?

    SOS have done what a union should do. In fact they have done what a local newspaper should do, too. They have asked the difficult questions – and they have got answers.

    By releasing the information it may also help some people to take their head out of the sand and realise the situation HICKS & GILLETT have put us in. I never cease to be amazed by people arguing that they business geniuses and us fans have got it all wrong – well now even Purslow doesn’t think they are fit to be involved and says what they have done is ‘unforgivable’ – so is he wrong now, too?

    The man taking the minutes of the meeting by the way, is a solicitor and if they are such an inaccurate reflection of what was said, why doesn’t Purslow say so on the record, to the press? Why is he telling the Liverpool Echo not to print the story? Why is he refusing to speak to the media (apart from a paper in SPAIN who would obviously be suitably clueless so as not to ask awkward questions…)? Why doesn’t he sue?

    As for all this putting off investors, as is stated in the post, there is still plenty of scope to make money out of LFC by building a stadium – there’s 40,000 people on the season ticket waiting list ready to fill it alongside the existing match-attending fans.

    So why would a fans’ group exposing a pair of charlatans put off investors? Perhaps instead it alerts them to a chance to get hold of the club for a more realistic price. And perhaps the Americans, who are surely getting sick of it all, will do the decent thing and do one?

    We can but hope.

    • mcdonaldtaf says:

      Hey Robbo – are you replying to Wallybango’s comment or the piece in general?

    • mcdonaldtaf says:

      “if they are such an inaccurate reflection of what was said, why doesn’t Purslow say so on the record, to the press? Why is he telling the Liverpool Echo not to print the story? Why is he refusing to speak to the media (apart from a paper in SPAIN who would obviously be suitably clueless so as not to ask awkward questions…)? Why doesn’t he sue?”

      These are valid and important questions we all need answers to. Something is amiss and we have yet another storm brewing at Anfield.

      The problem with putting off investors is not knowing whether H&G could (if they needed)raise the £100m themselves. I personally doubt they could (but you never know – they found £60m last year). If this is the case then, after this, it will be more difficult to reach agreement on a valuation and things won’t move forward.

      Let me suggest another scenario for you. The investors push H&G too hard and they say we’re better off selling SG, FT and JM, raise the £100m that way. We appear to be dealing with two strongly opinionated people – we may rue the day anybody pushed them too far!

      If you are correct in your assertion that SOS’s minutes reflect the meeting then Purslow has erred. He has a clear conflict of interest and is not working to the best benefit of the companies members (shareholders). In this case his position is untenable and he has opened himself up to a lawsuit IMO.

      As always more questions than answers, even following the answers, and a deafening silence emanates from Anfield!

  6. Igor Biscan's Right Hook says:

    The issue with not allowing tape recorders is because the club want to leave room for PR spin. That’s exactly what Purslow has done and tried to paint SOS as the evil super fans. The media blackout at Anfield over the protests on Saturday was disgraceful. Refusing to allow Sky to film the supporters demonstrating outside the ground was nothing short of fascism.

    Everyone can see what is going on yet a lot of fans choose to believe the PR spin from the club. Because they are in a position of authority does not mean that they are right on everything. You only have to look at our current ‘custodians’ as evidence of this.

    • mcdonaldtaf says:

      Don’t get this! He is full of spin and everything else, but appears to be telling SOS exactly what they want to hear.

      If he is full of spin and working his PR magic, why then clatter into a meeting blabbering like Rainman?

  7. Steviedicko says:

    What the piece misses, and quite frankly its a huge miss, is that Christian Purslow is essentially not in the employ of LFC. He is an RBS man. His remit is debt (the lowering of it), Stadium (the building of it to enhance the value of the asset) and governance (essentially getting these two sceptics to make a decision).

    I completely believe the SOS version of the minutes. Mr Smith is a an honourable, honest and straightforward professional and if it were he that prepared the minutes (as I understand to be the case) then I would be very suprised if there had been any colouring in.

    Moreover, loof at Purslow’s version. Out go all, not just some, all of the references that might be deemed inflamatory towards the owners. In comes a raft of buisnessspeak and management guff. I swear he’d have put “blu sky thinking” in there if he could have shoe-horned it in.

    I just hope that this unnecessary cynicism towards the only independent supporters body in existence and unwarranted leniency towards the Americans who are leveraging our club to the point of mediocrity disappears sooner rather than later.

    I can’t for the life of me understand why the above sentence would even need to be written given the circumstances we find ourselves in.

    • mcdonaldtaf says:

      I understand why people say that about Christian Purslow, but in a previous meeting with SOS) CP confirmed that he was in the employ of the club and not aware of any RBS involvement in his appointment. A presented fact which is yet to be publicly discredited (to the best of my knowledge).

      The point of the piece though is to not get into the H&G argument but to point out that if the SOS minutes are true CP should resign. His actions, while being what some fans would want to hear, are unethical, immoral and quite possibly open him up to legal action from H&G. If they are true how can any shareholder (whoever they might be) trust him in the future.

  8. […] ‘investment was on its way’… and still is… oh! Then there is the diabolical handling of the Spirit of Shankly minutes. Surely a rookie error by a seasoned […]

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