BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Charlton Athletic’s ownership battle has a new dynamic – with Paul Elliott about to sell his shares in Lex Dominus to a Welsh businessman who is determined to take control of the South London club.
Elliott had claimed he was the rightful owner of the Addicks and that he had won his legal case at the end of last month when Tahnoon Nimer failed to provide legal documentation.
But Cardiff-based Craig Freeman – who runs a specialist dental accountants – was due to complete his deal for Lex Dominus this morning when our paper went to press.
Elliott’s company had obtained an injunction in mid-September to block the sale of ESI to any other party before the trial.
But American-based Dane Thomas Sandgaard announced his takeover shortly after that ruling – he also gained EFL approval with the governing body also lifted a transfer embargo which had been in place since the start of the year.
Freeman says he will serve the court order which gives the company full control of Charlton.
“I’m not showbiz, I’m not going to make outlandish promises about Premiership and European domination, I’m just going to bring some normality back to a great club,” said Freeman.
“I’m aware of everything that has gone on and frankly, as a football fan, it has been difficult, and somewhat embarrassing to witness.
“I have long been interested in getting involved professionally with football, it was my passion as a younger man and I’ve enjoyed playing, managing and running semi-pro clubs.
“I have been successful in my business life and I decided a few years ago that I wanted to invest in a professionally run Football League club and became aware of the opportunity at Charlton.
“I thought the opportunity had passed but, I have followed the drama, and realised there may yet be an opportunity to get involved.
“I actually approached Paul Elliott in the summer but it was clear to me the situation was less than clear, so I decided to sit back and wait for the legalities to be played out.
“The ruling that Lex Dominus actually legally owned East Street Investments since May coupled with the very clear indication that Paul Elliott could never reasonably expect to be accepted by the fans to run the club, provided me with an opportunity to move forward.
“I spoke to Paul and it was clear, he knew the fans would never accept him and, in the end, he wanted the best for the club, understood the fans had been turned against him and wanted to allow the club to move forward and knowing that, I made him an offer.
“I know the next steps are not straight forward but I’m a respected British businessman with huge respect for the laws of our country and everything will be done in a straight forward, timely fashion and with respect for the British legal system.
“We will seek to enforce the court order, notify the club, Mr Sandgaard and the English Football League.
“I will ask the club to submit my EFL OADT application, which will be straight forward, and then finally we can draw a line under this sorry mess and move forward.”
Freeman recently completed level one and two of the ASA Football Agent course.
He played amateur football with Cardiff Corinthians FC and is a motor racing fan.
Freeman has also sponsored Cardiff Devils ice hockey team.
Born and brought up in Ely, he has run his accountancy firm for nearly 20 years.
“It may seem boring, but it has enabled me to build a very successful business and provided me with the resources to invest into different fields including property and sport,” he added.
“I actually planned to launch a football agency but I decided I would rather use my business acumen to run a club, to make sense of the finances that seem to trip up so many owners.
“I’ve looked at the numbers, I understand our legal position and I’m prepared to see this through till the end.
“There is no mystery to me. I’m straight down the middle, a very safe pair of hands.
“No rock and roll or showbiz, just a sensible, well-thought through plan, that will stabilise the club and build it back up slowly without running up massive debts for unrealistic dreams.”
Sandgaard told our paper last week that he was unconcerned by Elliott’s assertion that he was the rightful owner of the League One club.
“In terms of the ownership issue, nothing has changed and there’s nothing to worry about- zero per cent,” said Sandgaard, whose appointment allowed Charlton to make 11 signings before the transfer deadline.
“From a legal point of view this transaction is watertight. I’ve worked with, and I’m still working with, some very good attorneys.
“I’m not worried at all.”
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