IN the Chairman’s Suite at the Reebok Stadium today, more than 100 shareholders packed into the final AGM of Burnden Leisure PLC.
It was sometimes heated and sometimes jovial, as shareholders discussed everything from the current financial plight of the club to the price of chicken sandwiches at Whites’ new hotel venture.
There was standing room only, with attendees remarking that they had never seen an AGM this full.
And there was really only one reason why so many had turned up on a wet, wintry Friday morning in January, and that was to hear why the club’s board — and owner Eddie Davies — wanted to re-register Burnden Leisure PLC as a private limited company.
In the end, the reasons given by chairman Phil Gartside and financial director Anthony Massey were nothing out of the ordinary.
Mr Massey, who was also elected to the board at the meeting, told shareholders that the club had effectively been a private company since Mr Davies acquired a 94.5 per cent stake in the club about a decade ago.
He said it had always been the intention, since the takeover, to take the company private, but the club has had to wait 10 years to do so, without facing significant costs.
Mr Massey, whose background is in retail, mobile communications and computing, said the move would save the club some money in terms of its accounting obligations.
Shareholders were told they would still retain their stakes in the club. They were also told there would be an annual forum in place of the AGM — despite there being no obligation for a private company to hold such a meeting.
The motion to approve the re-registration of the company as a private limited company was duly passed, despite a handful of shareholders objecting.
The proposal to change the name of Wanderers’ holding company to Burnden Leisure Limited was also approved.
Before the vote, the business of the day was interrupted for about 40 minutes as Whites manager Dougie Freedman took part in a well-received question and answer session with shareholders.
Following the Q&A, property development expert Richard Gee was elected to the board, while vice chairman Brett Warburton was also re-elected.
Wanderers’ accounts will still be published on an annual basis, but the club will not have to file figures until March each year, rather than December.
At the end of last month, Burnden Leisure revealed that its debts had risen to £163.8 million. About £150 million of that is owed to one of Mr Davies’ firms, Moonshift Investments Limited.