McInnes reflects on the anniversary of the deal which saved Pompey

7
Have your say

IT WAS at 20 Farringdon Road, London, where the life-saving deal was brokered.

While Pompey eyes were distracted by events unfolding at the Rolls Building, just 1,287 metres away, administrator Trevor Birch’s BDO office was the battle ground for the true fight.

Iain McInnes, John Partridge and Chris Moth held their line as last-gasp negotiations with Portpin’s lawyers over a potential £3m out-of-court settlement were thrashed out.

At that precarious stage, failure would have presented Mr Justice Peter Smith with the capability to liquidate the Blues and send them spinning into non-league football.

Instead, at 4.21pm from Court 30, Sir Peter would authorise the agreement to have emerged from those tense negotiations – and Pompey had new owners.

It happened a year ago today – an occasion which brought many Blues fans to tears in the comfort their club finally had a future.

Supporters had united to save Pompey and remove the final remnants of those characters inextricably linked with its very public demise.

For McInnes, who was later installed as club chairman, the memories of the last scrap will never fade.

He said: ‘When we were at Trevor Birch’s offices still trying to do a deal with Chainrai & Co – and in fairness to them they were almost reasonable at the end – we got calls back from court to say the judge was laying our QC to waste in the early parts of the case.

‘Meanwhile, we were in two separate rooms with Chainrai’s lawyer in one room, and myself, John Partridge and Chris Moth in another, with half the gang having already gone to court.

‘We were still trying to get an agreement to appease the judge on the fact both parties wanted to do a deal and it was so knife edge.

‘It would make an excellent film, no question of that at all.

‘Levi Kushnir seemed to have ended up being the spokesman and you could tell wanted the last word and the final say.

‘We thought that if he’s getting feedback the way we were from the court and knows enough about this judge, then it was game over because we were going to lose this.

‘But, in fact, they didn’t appear to be – and if they did they certainly weren’t letting on they were.

‘Then, at the very last minute, one of Trevor’s colleagues – who had been very involved in negotiations – came in and said Levi wanted a personal action from one of the would-be co-owners of the football club going forward to show goodwill.

‘I knew this was the old spear in the ground gesture – basically, if you throw yours into the ground then we have a deal.

‘So I told him he could have £10,000 in his bank account that afternoon from me if that made all the difference in the world.

‘The representative said “Are you sure about that?” I said ‘Yes”, so the guy went back to talk to Levi.

‘Then he returned into our room – probably 3pm – and said “Levi thanks you for your generous offer. He respectfully declines it and wishes you all the best in the future running of the football club”.

‘I had to get something out of the deal and it’s about handling different cultures and different people.

‘There wasn’t anything left to say, but given the fact I am daft enough to think that £10,000 would have solved that helped Kushnir.

‘Basically, he had to save face and ended up with more face than the person with £10,000.

‘So he said keep it – but he did have the grace to say good luck with the future of the club.

‘How did we feel? Top of the world. How did I feel personally? Hugely relieved and enormously privileged.’

Following the agreement, McInnes had caught a taxi to the court in anticipation of Sir Peter ratifying the documentation, called a Tomlin order.

Several short adjournments took place as the judge scrutinized the papers in front of him, before effectively applying the rubber stamp.

Applause emanated from the public gallery crammed with Pompey supporters, before McInnes bear-hugged every one of those present in turn.

Eventually, the majority of the attendees reunited in Ye Olde Cock Tavern in nearby Fleet Street for speeches and Champagne long into the night.

Certainly a memorable occasion for McInnes.

He added: ‘I’ve got three kids so have got to be careful how I say this and I’m married – so that was about my fifth most delightful moment in my life!

‘Not just for me, but for everybody. To see the faces on the fans when that poker-faced judge with the dark sense of humour finally said it was ours will always live with me.

‘I know he was a Hull City fan but I think he saw the passion on the fans’ faces and thought this club is special.

‘The QC acting on behalf of Portpin (Hilary Stonefrost) was actually herself a Pompey fan and when we had understandable altercations outside the courthouse on a few occasions she was particularly upset, primarily for that reason.

‘In her professional capacity she couldn’t admit to any kind of bias but she’s a Pompey fan, she told me that and she’s a nice lady.

‘I was also told by a good QC friend of mine that the judge – who has had an interesting career – told me to look for whichever barrister he lays into first as that is probably the barrister least likely to win the case.

‘Well, he targeted ours first of all!

‘I can tell you now, our lawyers, when they saw who the judge was going to be, weren’t hugely confident. He is possibly as mad as a march hare but was a good guy and a football man.

‘Before that day I’d had conversations with Balram – Balu or whatever you call him – and one or two with Levi. Most of the negotiation was done between Trevor, our lawyers and their lawyers.

‘We also had a number of adjournments, some caused by us, some dictated by them, but the real negotiations – the final ones which ended up on a piece of paper – took place on the morning of the trial.’

In the year which has passed, results on the pitch have continued to disappoint, with Pompey threatened by a fourth relegation in five years.

There has also been the sacking of the first two managers employed during the new regime, including Blues legend Guy Whittingham.

Regardless, McInnes feels progress since April 10, 2013, has been made.

He said: ‘I am not really big on celebrations for avoiding relegation from League Two, I would consider that to be a failure.

‘But from where we set out, we have a football club, we have our own ground, we will have a training ground in the process of being constructed.

‘We are financially secure and debt free – with exception of the football debts – and we are ahead of our payment repayment on those.

‘If I am honest, I am not quite sure what anybody else could ask for and there have been a lot of people who have put in an a lot of work, in some instances paying a very high personal price for that work and I think that needs to be appreciated.

‘I certainly am sincere in thanking each and every one of my colleagues for the part they have played in this.’

Back to the top of the page