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'A good thing': Majority-backed USA consortium eyes up Worcester

By PA
(Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

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Former Worcester Warriors chief executive Jim O’Toole is optimistic a newly-formed consortium could save the club from administration. O’Toole is spearheading the takeover bid, majority-backed by a USA company with additional support from Worcester businesses. He moved another step forward on Tuesday afternoon after positive conversations with both the American investors and the club’s administrator.

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“Things happened quickly over the last 24 hours,” O’Toole told the PA news agency. “The group on the ground pulled together some thoughts on what a sustainable long-term business plan would look like, using the assets of the club, the land, the stadium etc.

“Then I had a meeting with my American client this afternoon and they said, ‘We’d really like to see if we can help. We’d like to be part of that consortium. Can you please go ahead and push whatever buttons you need to do to start that process?’”

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After a subsequent meeting with the administrator, O’Toole said: “We now are very clear on what we need to get to the stage where we can get a rapid decision from the stakeholders involved.”

Those stakeholders include the Rugby Football Union (RFU), Premiership Rugby and investors CVC Capital Partners, as well as Warriors’ administrators. Worcester are reportedly on the brink of administration following a winding-up petition over unpaid tax being issued by HM Revenue and Customs last week.

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The owners, Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham, said they remain in ongoing discussions with HMRC, Premiership Rugby, the RFU and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. While O’Toole wouldn’t directly name the potential US investors, he said they have “multiple interests in sport, but they are a true conglomerate with fingers in many pies and interests in many industries.”

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They became interested in the Warriors’ situation, he said, when the club’s story came up during a meeting about a separate sports marketing project – simultaneously, O’Toole had been approached by a local Worcester businessman asking if there was anything he could do.

“It’s a strong commercial proposition,” he said. “Because despite the pickle that the current owners put themselves into, they had some very clever ideas as to how to monetise the venue and the club. Some of those will definitely be ideas that can be salvaged and developed in a slightly different way.”

O’Toole has not been, as he puts it, “on the ground” with the players facing possible unemployment, but still lives in Worcester and described the mood as “sombre, and very stressful for them and their families. And, of course, the supporters that have supported this club in its current form since 1995.”

He added: “It’s very difficult to imagine the city of Worcester without a professional rugby club, knowing what it means to so many people. So if I can help facilitate the change of ownership then that would be a good thing.”

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Asked if he believed fans will see Warriors on the pitch in their season opener, scheduled for September 10 at London Irish, O’Toole added: “If everything comes together we have got a chance.”

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