Whatever happened to those Pompey saviours?

Nick Bain can afford a self-satisfied chuckle.

Saturday, 14th April 2018, 10:30 am
From left: Laurence Bassini, Rob Lloyd, Joseph Cala and Tom Lever

‘I was called a conspiracy theorist,’ he said. ‘Perhaps I am a bit of one, I don’t think I’m not, but you have to be, you have to watch everything.

‘There were various Pompey bidders from all over the place and Google was my best friend. It takes a bit of digging, but it’s all there.

‘A simple bit of due diligence finds them out.’

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It was April 10, 2013, when room 30 of the High Court’s Rolls Building witnessed fan ownership preventing Pompey’s liquidation.

Bain was present that day in the public gallery, the glorious culmination of supporters unifying.

He had formed an alliance with Micah Hall, Colin Farmery, John Lish and Sue Maskell, producing a series of enlightening online blogs delving into the suitability of a procession of prospective Pompey saviours.

Now, five years on from that court case victory over Portpin, the Blues are paraded as debt free, pushing for the League One play-offs and under Tornante’s ownership.

As for those who eyed the club during its darkest days, success has been mixed. For some of them, fortunes have declined. Literally.

Ex-Watford chairman Laurence Bassini emerged in September 2012, yet by March 2013 an independent disciplinary commission found him guilty of misconduct and dishonesty over financial dealings on behalf of the Vicarage Road club.

He was banned from involvement in a position of authority with any Football League club for three years. In June 2014, he was declared bankrupt.

Keith Gregory, who described himself as a successful international businessman in the leather industry, stepped forward in February 2012.

In March 2017, he was accused of damaging Thomas Gainsborough’s £24m-valued masterpiece The Morning Walk with a screwdriver.

He was cleared of criminal damage due to insanity, having suffered from ‘paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations’.

Meanwhile, in August 2010, 21-year-old Tom Lever declared a £16.2m bid.

His father, former Knutsford councillor David, had been made bankrupt in July 2010. Tom was declared bankrupt in June 2017, with Portsmouth FC 2010 LLP among businesses previously wound up.

Bain added: ‘Let’s face facts here, everyone talks about fan ownership, but before January 2013 it was a hard struggle to convince people.

‘Despite the blogs and our research, a lot were disbelieving fans could run a football club – they were amateurs, they had no money, blah, blah, blah.

‘For a long time, many fans were anti. All of a sudden, the momentum changed, more and more shares were sold. People bought into it.’

There were others, of course, who declared interest in debt-ridden Pompey before April 2013. Property developer Rob Lloyd was spokesman for a mystery South African consortium in March 2010.

In 2011, he claimed he was ripped off for £750,000 by a conman in the Bahamas. In the same year, his company Eatonfield Group reported losses of more than £26m following the collapse of the property market.

Victor Cattermole’s Endeavor Plan group appeared in February 2010. He ran for mayor in Christchurch, New Zealand, in October 2013, finishing third.

Elsewhere, UK investor group Portco, aided by Harry (Henry) Kerr, arrived in September 2012.

In February 2016, Kerr was found by the High Court in Nottingham to be liable to ‘an elaborate fraud’ claimed to have cost a Bristol-based businessman £24m.

Separately, in November 2017, two businessmen were imprisoned after stripping gate receipts from Hartlepool United.

A third man, Kerr, admitted fraud charges and was handed a prison sentence of two years, suspended for a year, and disqualified from being a director for six years.

Next was Keith Harris’ consortium from February 2013. Harris was appointed an Everton director in October 2016 having advised the club during Farhad Moshiri’s takeover.

Pascal Najadi’s father, Hussain, was assassinated in Kuala Lumpur in July 2013. Since September he has been at RBR Capital Advisors.

Completing the trio, veterinary surgeon Alan Hitchins’ company, Strait Oil & Gas (UK) Ltd, was liquidated in November 2015. Since April 2016, he has been a director at Vaxeal Immunotherapy Ltd.

Moving on, in January 2012, Joseph Cala voiced a Fratton Park interest.

In January last year, Morecambe announced he had agreed to buy a controlling stake, sparking an ownership battle resulting in a court order preventing the sale. Ultimately, Graham Burnard took the helm.

Vince Wolanin pulled out of talks to take over Pompey in March 2012, yet his aviation company, PrivateSky, continues to profit. Wolanin’s long-time associate and Pompey fan, Brian Howe, later backed Balram Chainrai on Twitter and established himself as a critic of fan ownership and now Tornante.

The former Bad Company lead singer launched a Kickstarter campaign in January 2014 to raise $100,000 for a new 12-song CD. It had reached $980 when he halted it. On GoFundMe, $5,451 was raised towards its $30,000 goal for the same project.

In the meantime, Pompey thrive in all of their absences.

And Bain – he now lives in Torquay and runs Portus-Eg Investigations, looking into football projects.

He added: ‘During those Pompey days there was a lot of hard work, a lot of bitterness, a lot of despair – but it worked out by the fact the club was saved and the fans got it.

‘I knew I was right about these people, it’s what I do, but it was a team effort, bloggers pulling together information from various sources. Everyone did their bit.

‘After all, the fans saved Pompey.’