Sports Direct has approached Goals Soccer Centres with a possible offer to buy the ailing football pitch operator at a heavily discounted price of less than £4m ahead of its expected delisting next week.
Goals has been mired in a corruption scandal in which former chief executive Keith Rogers and former chief financial officer Bill Gow have been accused of fraud and its shares have been suspended. The company is investigating allegations of “improper behaviour” dating back to at least 2010. Mr Rogers has previously denied wrongdoing and Mr Gow could not be reached for comment.
Mike Ashley’s group — already the biggest shareholder in Goals with a 19 per cent stake — said on Monday that it had proposed a possible cash offer to the Goals board of 5p a share on September 5. This would value the group at around £3.6m — a fraction of its £20.5m market capitalisation when its shares were suspended in March.
Sports Direct has been particularly scathing of Goals’ management and led a failed attempt to oust the entire board at its June AGM over what it said had been a “lack of transparency” surrounding the accounting debacle.
Shares in Goals are expected to be cancelled at the end of September as the company has been unable to publish its accounts because of the investigation. The group last month put itself up for sale as its crisis deepened.
Sports Direct said on Monday that should the delisting proceed, Goals’ shareholders would lose the ability to influence the sales process.
“Sports Direct believes that due to Goals’ well-publicised difficulties the board of Goals is not committed to maintaining Goals’ trading facility,” Sports Direct said in a statement.
“Instead, it seems only interested in pursuing the [sale] process whilst, at the same time through the loss of the trading facility, depriving Goals’ shareholders of the ability to vote on it. Sports Direct is strongly of the view that the Goals shareholders deserve an opportunity to consider the possible offer.”
Sports Direct emphasised that the announcement did not amount to a firm intention to make an offer.
Goals said in a statement that its board “notes the announcement today from Sports Direct International that it has received a preliminary and highly caveated possible cash offer”.
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