Ipswich Town board back takeover

Ipswich Town directors today backed a deal to sell 87.5pc of the football club's shares to entrepreneur Marcus Evans in exchange for clearing the club's £32 million debt and investing a further £12 million.

Ipswich Town directors today backed a deal to sell 87.5pc of the football club's shares to entrepreneur Marcus Evans in exchange for clearing the club's £32 million debt and investing a further £12 million.

The proposal requires the approval of 51pc of the existing shareholders at the extraordinary general meeting to be held at Ipswich Corn Exchange on December 17. With the deal being backed by the current board members and investor Michael Spencer, together representing around 49pc of the existing shares, the vote is likely to prove a formality.

The document setting out the deal, which has now been posted to shareholders, reveals details of the refinancing and investment which will see Marcus Evans Investments Ltd - part of Mr Evans' group of companies - acquire most of the club's existing debt and a majority of shares in Ipswich Town FC Ltd.

The only significant external debt the club will be left with is £2.6m, in respect of loan notes issued as part of the refinancing of the club which followed its spell in administration, and £1m owed to Bank of Scotland, which is secured on the club's training ground.

In a letter to shareholders, Marcus Evans said he would continue to maintain his anonymity to allow himself and his family to lead normal lives.

Control of Ipswich Town will pass to the club board, which will consist in future of just six directors, made up of three from the plc - chairman David Sheepshanks, chief executive Derek Bowden and non-executive director Kevin Beeston - and three from MEI.

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Chief executive Derek Bowden said he believed the takover by businessman Marcus Evans was "absolutely essential" for Town to win promotion back to the Premier League.

He said: "It is a historic day in this football club's history.

"This level of investment was absolutely essential. If you look at the clubs who have been promoted from this division in the last five years they have all had either a parachute payment or a benefactor.

"We've struggled manfully without either - most notably three seasons ago when we finished third - and this year we have done very well.

"But we are hovering around the play-offs and in order to have a real go at winning promotion we do clearly need to spend more on the playing side.

"Marcus is investing £12 million into the club which will all be available in January for Jim to spend on a combination of fees and wages to take this club forward.''

In an open letter to shareholders, chairman David Sheepshanks, who will stay on as chairman, wrote: "This is an extremely good outcome.

"Marcus Evans has indicated a willingness to provide further investment were it to become necessary to achieve his and the club's aims. We wanted to find someone who would maintain Ipswich Town's culture and values. Marcus Evans has demonstrated his understanding of the club's heritage and the board believes the club's future will be safe in his hands."

t Ipswich are currently eighth in the Coca-Cola Championship, undefeated at home this season in the league.

t Details of the Marcus Evans deal emerged today as Ipswich Town announced a small profit of £174,000 for last season. Turnover fell to £15.3m last season, from £16.4m, reflecting a decline in season ticket sales.