On the day of the AGM, the following article by Dave McIntyre appeared in the local Gazette:-
QPR’s Italian owners are ready to sell the Club for around ¬£4m writes Dave McIntyre. Chairman Gianni Paladini says he is willing to part with his shares for the price that he bought them for and that fellow investors, Antonio Caliendo and Franco Zanotti will do the same. It means that after a year of being merely open to offers, the trio who together own around 62% of the Club, have now gone a step further and effectively put Rangers up for sale.
A group fronted by former Liverpool and Tottenham striker Ronny Rosenthal, is among a number of parties to have expressed an interest. Another group was yesterday (Thursday) due to enter discussions about a possible takeover. Paladini paid around ¬£650,000 for a 22% stake back in 2004 and ousted Bill Power as Chairman a year later following a bitter struggle for control. Since then, the Club have been plagued by problems on and off the pitch, undermining efforts to deal with ongoing financial pressures inherited from the regime of former owner, Chris Wright.
The pressure on Paladini has been mounting and he is likely to be confronted by angry fans at the Annual General Meeting of shareholders at Loftus Road today (Friday) Rangers face a winding-up order over a ¬£750,000 tax bill and the Club’s overall debt continues to cause alarm. The usually bullish Paladini admits that fresh investment is badly needed and says that the current owners want to move aside. He said, “We’ve taken the Club as far as we can and don’t have the money to take it further. We need someone else to come in. I’m not looking for more than I paid for my shares. The same applies to Antonio. I would put any profit I made on my shares back into the Club. We won’t stand in the way of anyone who can take this Club forward. If the right people are there and can show that they will be good for QPR then there is no way we would try and stop them. We need new investment and new people to take QPR forward. We want the Club to succeed.”
Caliendo is now a major creditor having loaned the Club substantial funds in order to prevent it sliding into administration. Paladini has always insisted that the Directors’ loans would only be recouped should QPR make a profit by winning promotion to the Premiership, meaning repayment would not be a barrier to a takeover. Even so, the task facing any potential new owner would be massive. Deposing Caliendo and co is the relatively easy part. There would then be the job of dealing with ongoing losses and the ¬£10m loan from the mysterious ABC Corporation, which was arranged by the previous regime to enable Rangers to come out of administration in 2002. The deal allowed ABC to increase the interest repayments after five years and following repeated failures to renegotiate, the interest is now duly set to rise to a whopping 11.59%.
Paladini is likely to use the AGM to defend his record and highlight the problems he inherited. He will also reassure shareholders over the winding-up order, pointing out that money from increased season ticket sales can be used to placate the taxman. But his apparent willingness to accept what he paid for his shares in order to move aside, is an acknowledgement that the Club is struggling again. Just a year ago, he declared that it would take an offer of at least ¬£8m and probably significantly more, just to purchase the Italians’ shares. “It wouldn’t take as much as that now”, Paladini admitted. “If someone comes forward and can show they’d be good for QPR, we will welcome them. When we came here, the Club was in a very bad position. Things are better now but we’ve done all we can and someone else is needed to take things forward. The money we owe is all in the books and if someone is willing to come in and invest, I think the Club can have a bright future.”