Date: 1st June 2012 at 11:35am
Written by:

Bees United have announced a Special General Meeting on 18th June at 7.15pm – and are proposing to sell BU’s ordinary shares to Matthew Benham

The move would bring the current agreement between BU and Matthew – who has effectively been bankrolling the club over recent years – to an early conclusion.

Brentford have had their problems with certain previous owners – in particular Dave Webb (who Beesotted chased around London with a W£BB Out poster van) and Ron Noades – but Benham, who has made his money in the betting industry, has the advantage of being a genuine Brentford supporter.

Further detail can be read on the Bees United website.

This is another turning point in the future of the club and Beesotted urges anyone with the right to vote to voice their opinion.

An open statement from Matthew Benham appears below:

To: Directors, Brentford Football Community Society Limited

Date: 24 May 2012

I am writing to provide you some comfort in relation to my intentions as regards my financial commitment to the club, in the context of the proposed “acceleration” of the end of the current arrangements with Bees United.

I have over a period of several years funded the club to a substantial degree. Initially this investment was with me making no input as to how my investment was spent, and latterly this changed when the partnership with Bees United was implemented – I took operational control of the club.

Whenever a drawdown request has been made, the applicable funds have been provided promptly throughout my involvement with the club. The club directors, including those nominees of BFCS have no reason to believe that I will not continue funding the club should I assume a majority shareholding in the club.

To the extent that the club incurs expenses within the budget that I have approved following the board approval, I intend to provide those funds for such year in accordance with that budget. The club budget is subject to approval by the board of the club, following preparation by the club`s chief executive and its finance team. Each director of the club, including the directors representing the trust has a legal responsibility to ensure that the club behaves in a responsible financial fashion, and my understanding is that this process has worked well.

Whilst it is unfortunately not possible for any of us to read the future with certainty, I can confirm that my proposed aggregate commitment to the club for the 2012-13 season and 2013-14 season (if that budget is set at the time at a similar level to the draft budget currently under consideration by the club`s directors) would represent less than 20% of my current net worth.

Whilst the club`s own budget cycle provides me with ample opportunity to assess my ability to commit the level of funds to the club required for it to achieve its ambitions, I have throughout my involvement in the club sought to provide initial indications of the amounts I am able to commit well before the budget deadlines so that there are no surprises, and this would continue to be the case.

I can confirm that I have no plans to cut spending on the club on the basis of my current financial position, though for clarity, I do already have the right to vary the enhanced funding that I currently provide to the club. I have no intention to “overstretch” myself financially in the funding of the club.

As majority owner of the club and its main funder, in the event I became a majority shareholder, I would properly retain the right to vary the funds I commit, but in the event that I decided to vary the amount of spend I am willing to make, the club directors would be made aware of this in good time, prior to approval of the subsequent year`s budget.

My commitment to the club is a serious one. In exercising the option, I would be capitalising several million pounds worth of loans which were made interest free to the club. I have every incentive to make sure the club is looked after properly, and I reiterate my comfort in BU retaining a golden share in relation to the club stadium. However, as majority shareholders it is for you to make the best decision you can in the interests of Brentford FC.

You do need to understand though, that in the event of my death, in the absence of an alternative source of significant funds, the club would be financially unable to continue in the same fashion as it currently does. The club currently has the benefit of life insurance policies which would provide the club with a lump sum in the event of my death, and should I gain control of the club, then I would have no issue should the board decide to allocate part of the available budget to maintenance of these policies.

In the event of my death, of course, my executors would have a duty to maintain the value of the club, and I will be discussing with you potential strategies to ensure that after my passing, the effect on the club of such an outcome is minimised to the extent possible.

It would be nice to be able to “guarantee” the club`s future in all circumstances following any acquisition by me of a majority shareholding. Unfortunately life is too unpredictable for that.

You should be aware then that I cannot guarantee that I will always remain wealthy enough to provide support for the club, and so I cannot provide contractually binding guarantees of spend in specific circumstances, though I hope I have demonstrated by my actions during the last few years when I have had operational control of the club that I have the best interests of the club at heart.

I also have no reason to believe that my financial status is about to change materially in a manner which would affect my ability to continue to support the club financially. If I do not take a majority shareholding, then the consequences would, I am convinced, be significant for the club with almost immediate effect.

I do not claim to be experienced at the day to day running of a football club, and therefore I will continue to rely on the guidance and support of the club board in managing the financial investments I am making with the correct balance of looking after the club`s short and long term future. Going forward, Mark Devlin, as CEO and Bob Lampert as CFO are adopting a key role in competently managing the club, and they, together with a board with the necessary skills and perspectives to navigate the club forward are to my mind the best guarantees of the club`s future both now and beyond my time.

Though the legally binding arrangement will of course be set out in an amended shareholders` agreement in respect of the club, nothing in this letter is intended to, nor shall it be, legally binding on me or my estate. However, I hope this explanation of my perspective on the proposed arrangements is helpful in you seeing the “whites of my eyes”, and of course I`m happy to answer any specific questions you may have – perhaps channelled through Dave Merritt might be a convenient way.

With kind regards

Matthew Benham