Derby County administrators face legal action from potential buyer

22 June 2022 3 min. read

Retail magnate Mike Ashley has alleged that Quantuma professional Carl Jackson made false representations during takeover discussions. The news comes as Quantuma extends its deadline to find a buyer for the beleaguered League One club yet again.

Historic football club Derby County entered administration in September 2021. Owner Mel Morris blamed the coronavirus pandemic for costing the Rams about £20 million in lost revenue – though the financial security of the club had been a matter of speculation for some time before; something which led to a further points deduction that essentially condemned the club to relegation months before the end of the Championship season.

The club’s struggles have continued off the pitch, with Quantuma struggling to find a buyer for the club.

Derby County administrators face legal action from potential buyer

Such is the severity of the situation, that nine months after the firm was installed to the role, the English Football League has publicly stated it is “increasingly concerned” with the “ongoing delays” in the sale of Derby, and confirmed it has revised the conditions given to Derby’s administrators. The EFL will now be a party to all discussions between Quantuma and any potential bidders.

Worse still for the administrators, one of the possible suitors vying to buy Derby is now levelling legal claims at one of Quantuma’s professionals. Mike Ashley – who football fans will know well as the much-maligned former owner of Newcastle United – has accused administrator Carl Jackson of knowingly making false representations to MASH regarding takeover talks.

MASH is Ashley’s holding group, and legal documents presented to the High Court claim that Jackson informed MASH was the preferred bidder for Derby in January 2022. However, as reported by the Telegraph, the documents alleged that Jackson failed to inform the EFL of this – despite insisting he would. The legal claim suggests Jackson did this in the hope MASH would continue to engage in the bidding process – incurring costs in doing so – and eventually submit a formal bid, which would have driven up the price for other interested bidders.

A Quantuma spokesperson told the Telegraph, "We are aware of a legal claim filed against Carl Jackson. The Joint Administrators have a duty to get the best price reasonably obtainable for the club by implementing a process that is fair to all prospective bidders and this remit has been followed throughout. We are not concerned by this claim, which we regard as frivolous, and we would like to reassure all parties that it will have no bearing on the successful sale of the club, which remains our overriding priority."

MASH, meanwhile, insists Jackson’s alleged conduct amounts to deceit. It is therefore seeking damages, even while it reportedly is "all in" on a new offer for Derby.

Mike Ashley is one of several parties interested in buying the club – though a stumbling block remains what happens to Pride Park in that case. The stadium is still owned by Mel Morris – and Ashley has been clear that he does not believe the club in its current position “can justify paying rent for the stadium.” Therefore, for his successful purchasing of the club and stadium, he would undertake “that no rent would ever be paid for the stadium." 

Three other parties are understood to have submitted proposals this week: former Derby chairman Andy Appleby – who has claimed his own bid for the club is in its 'final strokes' – ex-Wolves owner Steve Morgan and a local consortium. It is now a race between them all to get a deal done and rescue the club – as talk turns to whether it might become the ‘next Bury’, and be expelled from the football league if it cannot find a buyer.