London Irish boss who spent £14m of his own money to keep club going rejects £3.5m ‘distress sale’ takeover ambush and says he’s with club for the long haul
London Irish president and majority shareholder Mick Crossan has reaffirmed his commitment to making the Exiles a force to be reckoned with in the Aviva Premiership, despite reports of an attempted takeover.
The Daily Telegraph this week said a consortium of unnamed Irish businessmen had attempted a £3.5m takeover supported by minority shareholder Phil Cusack who holds 20 per cent.
Powerday boss Crossan confirmed that while he was considering a number of investment offers, he was personally committed to London Irish for the “longterm”.
“This year London Irish is 120 years old and I want to make sure that the club is secure for the next 120 years,” said Mr Crossan in a statement issued by the club on Monday (15 January).
“I am very much on board with the club for the long-term but we have been speaking to a number of investors about joining the current shareholders to help the club develop to the next level to become a real contender in the Aviva Premiership.
“The process is in the early stages but as you would expect with a club that has such a rich history, passionate supporter base and strong credentials, we have received a number of investment enquiries, however, London Irish will only entertain working with investors that offer long-term security and share the same passion for the club that the existing shareholders have.
“I am aware of the approach discussed in a recent article in The Telegraph and can confirm that we have not accepted any offers of investment to date.
“These are exciting times for London Irish as we consider our options for moving back to London so it is no surprise that we have received a lot of positive interest in investing in the club but we need to make sure that any investor who joins us has the best interests of the club at heart.”
“London Irish is 120 years old and I want to make sure that the club is secure for the next 120 years”
The story in The Daily Telegraph reported that the consortium’s offer was made just before Christmas and was “formally discussed with the club’s representatives” last Thursday in London at a solicitor’s office.
Mr Crossan, who owns 70 per cent of the club, led a consortium which brought the club for £2.5m in December 2013, and has since made it debt free.
Phil Cusack owns 20 per cent and Glenn Kielty has a 10 per cent holding. The club’s state-of-the-art training facility and HQ in Hazelwood in Sunbury, South-West London, is conservatively valued at £6m.
Mr Crossan had appealed for new investors to come forward in an interview with the Irish World in September.
He told the Irish World: “…..if we are going to go all the way we will need other people like me and the other shareholders who want to back us and take us all the way. It won’t be overnight.”
Contracted to play its home matches at Reading’s Madeejski Stadium until 2025/26, plans are underway for the club to share Brentford FC’s new Lionel Road stadium in West London.
Brian Facer, chief executive London Irish, added In Monday’s statement: “Our prime focus is currently on the Aviva Premiership and we are backing Nick and his team to secure the club’s survival in the league over the coming months.
“We have shown that we can compete against the country’s best teams with close results against some of the top Aviva Premiership teams over the last two months.
“The spirit across the squad and the whole club is very committed and with the backing of our fantastic supporters, we know that this can translate into wins.
“The future of the club is also very strong with five London Irish senior academy players being selected for the England under 20 squad.”
One of the Premiership’s original members, London Irish are currently bottom of the Aviva Premiership. The club was relegated in 2015/16 to the Championship, but won promotion back to English rugby’s top flight at the first attempt last year.
The club reached the Premiership final in 2008/09 and the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup the year before. In 2002 it won the Powergen Cup, beating Northampton Saints in the final at Twickenham.