THE vital board meeting which irreversibly changed the future of Swindon Town early last December has been branded ‘confused’ and ‘inconclusive’ by a High Court judge.
In the first day of a hearing to determine the ownership of the Robins at the Rolls Building in Central London today, details emerged of the shoddy meeting which forced Jed McCrory out and put Lee Power in place.
On December 3, a board meeting involving McCrory, Power and Sangita Shah, brought matters to a head on who owned the club.
More than eight months after signing a share sale agreement with Seebeck 87, the holding firm which owns Swindon Town, and injecting £1.2m to lift a transfer embargo in March, Power seized control and asked McCrory to step aside.
The agreement in place after Power’s seven-figure cash boost, which was returned to him 11 days later, would ultimately grant Swinton Reds 20, Power’s holding company, a 60 per cent controlling stake in the club.
Power waited, as all new owners must, for Football League approval, which came on July 11 last year.
The former professional footballer was under the wrong impression this granted him only permission to join the club as a director, which he did last summer, when it actually allowed him to take ownership too.
It was not until November when Power, after requesting Shah make some enquiries for him, realised he was in place to execute the share agreement and take control.
It was then in this December board meeting Power seized control. Judge Nicholas Strauss QC said: “This was a pretty confused meeting which didn’t reach any conclusions.
“At one stage, not necessarily in the meeting, Mr Power was saying ‘well, I’m now the owner’ and Mr McCrory was saying ‘no you’re not because this (the agreement) is null and void’.
“And there were discussions about resignations and compromises. None of it reached any conclusions and you went off to lunch before Mr McCrory decided he didn’t want to come back.”
During her time at the stand, Shah described her role as a one of peacekeeper between the power-hungry personalities of McCrory and Power.
She also said the pair began to experience difficulties in their relationship when the club was being audited in October last year.
“One person (Power) was injecting money into the company and there was no direction or recognition the money was going through,” she said.
“The other person (McCrory) was the charismatic chairman and running the club rather than just the football side. He enjoyed being chairman.
“Simply put, it was two people who wanted to be in control.”
And on the December meeting, she said: “It was a pivotal meeting; there were a lot of hostilities. I had to be the independent broker which meant I wasn’t liked by both of them.
“I tried to get them to come to a compromise agreement. Jed accepted that Lee was taking over the club at that time.”
It came to light McCrory expected remuneration if he were to step aside as chairman of Swindon Town and Seebeck 87.
Hugh Jory QC, counsel for the claimant Swinton Reds 20 (Power), said McCrory was asking for £7,000 to be paid in instalments to him in the months after his proposed resignation, as well as a car.
It was also revealed McCrory had designs on pursuing a political career and did not want to have his image tarnished by any takeover.
Tomorrow the hearing is expected to conclude, with Power to finish his evidence and McCrory to take to the stand.
The judge must decide whether the share sale agreement from Spring 2013 was still open to Power when he executed it last December, or whether his option on taking the majority stake had lapsed.