Dean Hoyle hails ‘landmark’ deal to restore Huddersfield Town stadium shares

Huddersfield Town chairman Dean Hoyle has agreed to pay £2m as part of a deal for the return of the club’s shares in the John Smith’s Stadium

The John Smith's Stadium

Huddersfield Town chairman Dean Hoyle has agreed to pay £2m as part of a deal for the return of the club’s shares in the John Smith’s Stadium.

Mr Hoyle will repay £2 million in personal loans to previous owner Ken Davy who saved the club from administration a decade ago.

And in return Giants chairman Mr Davy has sold Town’s former 40% shareholding back to the club – for a nominal £1.

Yesterday’s deal ended some three years of wrangling, as relations between the two clubs descended into bitterness.

Town hailed the deal a “landmark” for the club and Mr Hoyle said: “This is a great day for the club, its supporters and me.

“I am sure there will be many very happy fans at this news.”

Shares in Kirklees Stadium Development Ltd (KSDL) were split between Kirklees Council, Town and the Giants when the stadium was planned in the early 1990s.

The council and Town had 40% each while the Giants had 20%.

That split remained until Town were plucked from administration by Mr Davy in 2003.

Mr Davy then transferred the Town and Giants shares to his own company Huddersfield Sporting Pride Ltd.

Mr Hoyle bought Town from Mr Davy in 2009 but a separate deal to restore the shares fell through.

A deal was finally agreed yesterday and Mr Hoyle revealed that he personally would repay £2 million in “old loans” to Mr Davy.

There was a further £487,000 still owed but when that was repaid Mr Davy would have received back “all the cash he ever put into the club”, said Mr Hoyle.

Mr Hoyle admitted it had been a “long and tough” road and said “lessons need to be learned.”

He added: “I now plan to put the club’s shares in KSDL into a charitable trust to ensure no future owner or Huddersfield Town board can ever again separate the stadium interest from the club.

“Details will be made public so everyone knows fully what is going on.”

The deal also means that the £100 million HD One leisure complex scheme on land surrounding the stadium is back on.

The project, which could create 900 jobs, will see a ski slope, hotel, two nightclubs, dozens of bars and restaurants and 140 flats built.

The scheme was approved by Kirklees Council in 2010 but the shares dispute had put a halt to it.

Mr Hoyle added: “We can all now look forward to a new start with great optimism.

“It is a landmark day for the club and one I’m sure will be welcomed by everyone.

“This is another step forward for our club, the stadium and our community and a proud moment for me.”

Mr Davy said he was delighted the “vexed issue” had been resolved but maintained the shares were more a potential liability than an asset to both clubs.

He said the HD One project was vital for the future of both clubs.

By Dean Hoyle’s own admission the shares controversy has caused “a bit of animosity” between Town and the Giants.

And it has taken months of tense negotiations to finally hammer out a deal that Mr Hoyle and Ken Davy were both happy with.

Several times it was thought a deal had been done only for another hitch to cause a delay.

Finally yesterday agreement was reached and the deal went through.

For Mr Hoyle it was about security for the football club – and no sudden hike in rent – and a return to the share distribution originally agreed when the John Smith’s Stadium – then the Kirklees Stadium – was built.

In 1991 Kirklees Council, Town and Huddersfield RLFC joined forces with a vision to build a new community stadium.

In the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy in which 96 fans died, Town director Graham Leslie and then council leader John Harman led a drive to build a shared home for the town’s two professional sporting clubs, replacing the ageing Leeds Road and Fartown grounds.

By 1991 Kirklees Stadium Development Ltd (KSDL), a unique partnership company, was set up.

The council took a 40% share in the company, Town 40% and the Giants 20%.

The stadium opened in 1994 and that shareholding remained until Giants chairman Mr Davy rescued Town from administration in 2003.

In a move designed to protect the rugby club Mr Davy transferred the Town and Giants’ shares into his own company, Huddersfield Sporting Pride, effectively taking control of the stadium.

He reputedly paid a nominal £2.

In 2009 Mr Davy, having stabilised the football club, sold Town to Mr Hoyle.

However, shortly afterwards, a deal to transfer Town’s 40% shareholding back to the football club collapsed amid acrimony.

Kirklees Council, anxious to avoid the burden of the stadium’s upkeep falling on council taxpayers, attempted to mediate and broker a deal.

The man at the centre of the talks was the former council leader Sir John Harman.

In January, 2012 – with both sides deadlocked – Town’s fans were mobilised into action.

Huddersfield Town Supporters’ Association (HTSA) printed 7,500 lime green T-shirts and staged a high-profile protest aimed at Mr Davy in front of the Sky TV cameras for Town’s home game against Brentford.

The shirts were emblazoned with the slogan: "£2. Do the right thing. Give us back our shares.”

A website www.soldfor2quid.com added to the pressure.

Eventually common sense prevailed and both sides returned to the negotiating table and a deal was agreed.

Giants chairman Ken Davy  said: “Obviously I am delighted that this vexed issue has finally been resolved.

“The key issue for me has always been that any solution must allow the HD One project to go ahead.

“This will bring almost 1,000 new jobs to Huddersfield as well as creating a sports and leisure development of regional and potentially national significance.

“I therefore believe it is critically important that this project goes ahead.

Huddersfield Giants chairman Ken Davy
Huddersfield Giants chairman Ken Davy

“What is also clear from Sir John Harman’s statement is that I continued to provide significant funding for Huddersfield Town’s drive for promotion after transferring majority ownership to Dean Hoyle.

“As regards the shares, the reality is that the shares are a potential liability to the clubs rather than an asset.

“The stadium shares will not rank for dividends or any other benefits until both clubs are entirely free of rent and service charges.

“It is unlikely that situation will ever arise. Refurbishment and regeneration costs over time will obviously create potential liabilities for the shareholders of KSDL.

“I would like to re-state how delighted I am that this whole matter has been resolved and I look forward to both clubs and the community at large continuing to benefit from the stadium as they have since its inception including during the last 10 years when Huddersfield Sporting Pride held the majority stake.

“Also during the 10 years we have improved the stadium facilities, including a new shop and state-of-the-art ticket office, which was either funded directly by me or under-written by me.

“Interestingly, it is almost four years to the day since I handed the KSDL share certificate back to the company secretary so that the shareholdings could be re-organised which leaves me even more delighted that this whole matter has been resolved and I look forward to the future success of both Huddersfield Giants and Huddersfield Town, both of which I am passionate to see succeed.”

Huddersfield Town, Huddersfield Giants, Kirklees Council and Kirklees Stadium Development Ltd (KSDL) have signed a new agreement which safeguards the future of their unique collaboration at the John Smith’s stadium.

This historic agreement confirms the founding principles of three-way partnership and joint ownership of the stadium complex, and paves the way for a major new leisure development with the stadium at its heart.

The agreement:

Ensures the transfer of KSDL shares to HTAFC, returning the ownership of the company to 40:40:20 (HTAFC, Kirklees Council, and Giants respectively);

Safeguards the rights of both clubs;

Re-affirms that the stadium is a community asset;

Commits the partners to work together to promote its commercial success;

Ensures that the success of the stadium will be used to strengthen the financial security of both clubs.

The agreement also puts the full weight of the partners behind the exciting plans for HD One, the major leisure development on the stadium site which is set to bring millions of pounds of new investment and hundreds of new jobs into the local economy.

Sir John Harman, chairman of KSDL, welcomed the agreement.

“Everyone involved with the partnership deserves great credit for the spirit in which they have come together, put narrow self-interest aside and seen the wider benefits of collaboration.

“This partnership opens significant new commercial opportunities that would not otherwise be on the table.

“Both clubs are committed to being financially responsible and sustainable and this agreement will certainly help to underpin their future viability.”

He went on: “It’s well known that there has been a dispute over the ownership of KSDL in recent years.

“Confidentiality has obviously had to be the watchword during prolonged negotiations and perhaps, inevitably, there has been public speculation as to the motives of the parties, but I can say now that both owners and the council have acted throughout with care and propriety in their wish to ensure that their club’s interests, and the public interest, are protected.

“Dean Hoyle continues to make a significant personal financial commitment to take Huddersfield Town forward and part of that has been his determination to secure the club’s on-going stake in its home stadium.

“Ken Davy took on the onerous task of rescuing Huddersfield Town from administration in 2004 and putting the club back on a viable footing at considerable personal cost, at the same time as building up the Giants.

“What is less well known is that Dean and Ken, both determined to ensure the success of their own club, have also shown great vision in finding a basis for this agreement, and Kirklees Council has had an important role in enabling and encouraging them to do so.

“There have been numerous difficulties but they have been overcome.

“The council, as part owner, has also played a vital role in reinforcing the spirit of partnership on which the stadium was built.

“This is a community stadium and we all want to see it contribute fully to the life and economy of the district.”

As part of the agreement, Dean Hoyle will pay £2m to redeem Ken Davy’s personal loans to Huddersfield Town made in the period after he ceased to be the majority shareholder of the football club.

“The 40 shares will be transferred for a nominal value of £1.”

Town fans last night welcomed news of the shares deal.

But they still expressed concern at Ken Davy’s involvement in the issue and called on him to step down from his post of Life President at Huddersfield Town.

Huddersfield Town Supporters Association (HTSA)
Huddersfield Town Supporters Association (HTSA)
 

Huddersfield Town Supporters Association (HTSA) chairman Stephen King said: “The fans of Huddersfield Town should rejoice at the news that the shares in the stadium have been rightfully transferred back to the ownership of the football club, in keeping with the original plan of a joint partnership for the mutual benefit of all.

“Having a share in the ownership of the stadium we occupy is crucial, in both the short and for the long term, for the continued success of Huddersfield Town and indeed the wider community of Kirklees and beyond.

“Whilst HTSA are delighted at the news, we must not forget the events of the last 10 years and in particular the conduct of Mr Davy and how the club came to be in this position in the first place.

“Surely it is now right for Ken Davy to abdicate from his role bestowed upon him as the Life President of Huddersfield Town – you the fans need to decide!

“We asked Mr Davy to ‘do the right thing’ and return the shares for the £2. He eventually has. HTSA, and all Huddersfield Town fans, are grateful for the continued fortitude and resilience of Dean Hoyle, Nigel Clibbens and many other people connected with the club in continuing to fight to regain the shares.”

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