SWINDON Town chairman Lee Power may have mistakenly paved the way for Clem Morfuni to take over the football club.

Mr Power, who owns an 85 per cent stake in the County Ground side, issued a transfer notice on May 17 indicating his desire to sell his shares in holding company Swinton Reds 20 to American outfit AC Sports – known as Able – at £2,500 a share.

Axis, a 15 per cent shareholder in the club and owned by Australian property tycoon Clem Morfuni, was told it could bid for 13 of the 85 shares Mr Power hoped to sell to Able.

But by the end of May the minority shareholder made a counter offer for all 85 of the shares, claiming that a clause in its shareholder agreement – or articles – entitled it to make the bid. Mr Power subsequently withdrew his transfer notice.

Today, a High Court judge upheld the legality of Axis’s offer for the 85 shares. He said that in drafting the offer notice the directors had erred in their interpretation of the articles of association – the agreement between the shareholders – and Axis should have been offered the chance to acquire all 85 shares.

That decision paves the way for the company’s lawyers to ask the court to order the transfer of the shares, although no such order was made on Tuesday.

Deputy High Court Judge Nicholas Thompsell refused an application from Colin West QC, appearing for Axis, for an order forcing Mr Power to sell the club to Axis.

He told the lawyers he did not have sufficient evidence to decide whether or not to force a sale to Axis. “I think it is a high threshold for the court to order that,” he added. He ordered that Mr Power provide evidence of his financial resources to support on the club ahead of a hearing in July.

Judge Thompsell said: “If I were in Mr Power’s shoes, I might feel that having lost on the transfer notice point, the [points] I had to bring forward were getting fewer. I won’t say any more than that and of course I don’t pre-judge anything he may come up with but one feels this ought to resolve itself, really.”

Mr West, for Axis, replied: “Hope springs eternal.” The barrister added that fans would find it difficult to understand why, if Axis had served a valid acceptance notice confirming they would buy the shares, Mr Power could remain the chairman ‘perhaps for many months’.

Lawyers for Axis claimed Mr Power was charging the club interest on a loan he had taken out to buy debentures – a form of loan – previously held by past owners Andrew Black and Sir Martyn Arbib. Mr West told the judge that by his calculation the interest amounted to £170,000 a year or £14,000 a month.

Mr West questioned what would happen about Mr Power continuing to buy players on two to three year contracts, given Axis may become the club owners.

Hannah Thornley, for Mr Power, challenged Axis’ interpretation of the shareholder agreement and the application brought by the firm’s lawyers.

She fought Mr West’s attempt to persuade the judge to force a sale of the firm. The club was acknowledged to be ‘hopelessly insolvent’, as it was described in a previous court hearing.

Ms Thornley said Mr Power had funded the company out of his own pocket since 2019 and had proved himself to be a ‘safe pair of hands’.

A trial will be held in September to decide football agent Michael Standing’s claim that he is entitled to 50 per cent of the shares in the club. The agent, who acts for Premier League ace Gareth Barry, says he made a verbal agreement with Mr Power in 2013 and has since put millions into the club.

Another hearing is expected to be held in July, where Axis’ lawyers will renew their application for a forced sale of the club.

It is anticipated that Mr Power may appeal Judge Thompsell’s decision on the transfer notice.

Following the hearing, Rob Angus of the Swindon Town Supporters’ Trust said: “We are very concerned about the future of our club while Power remains in charge and with only two months to go to the start of the season it is imperative that Power transfers shares to Axis straight away.”