As anybody who has bought a house will tell you, the completion of buying a major asset can take time, so imagine being the first Chinese man/company to ever buy an English football club outright. Patience is a virtue, even though preseason is mere weeks away.
While the Premier League’s fit and proper tests on Xia, Recon and all the various directors involved, ramble on, the story so far of Xia’s purchase of Aston Villa from Randy Lerner has been an interesting one.
While the potential scope of a Chinese takeover, as we’ve discussed in full on MOMS, has always been intriguing, the timing and random grandiose statements (i.e. “top three in the world”) have led to an understandable amount of caution from supporters.
Looking at the Companies House site this weekend there is both good news and also another alarm bell.
On Friday 3rd June the online version of Companies House published evidence of movement in the takeover process. The company listed on 12th May 2016 as Recon Sports Ltd, that the Villa deal is obviously being conducted through, saw Tony Xia (aka Jiantong Xia) registered as a director on 27 May 2016, along with Christopher Samuelson.
Both directors replace the director Alan John Frank Hitchins, who has relinquished his position, after obviously being in place to help set up Recon Sports Ltd, the branch of Recon in the UK to facilitate the Villa deal.
While the financial press, including the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, have been intrigued with the background and Chinese business interests of Tony Xia, what has largely gone unnoticed by the media is the names of those who have seemingly been instrumental in brokering the deal this side of the world.
Obviously, the buying and selling of football clubs is big business. In the same way football agents have played a bigger part in transfers due to the increase of money in the game, the buying of football clubs also attracts similiar opportunists to help broker deals.
MOMS has previously highlighted the involvement of ex-Everton CEO Keith Wyness and more interestingly, considering his background, Christopher Samuelson, and seeing the name Alan John Frank Hitchins on the Companies House records does raise an eyebrow.
The official office address of Recon Sports Ltd is actually Gorrie Whitson Chartered Accountants in London, an address that Hitchins has registered for several of his previous companies over the years, including one called Vaxeal Ltd set up a month before Recon Sport Ltd was created.
Hitchins was a company director of Recon Sport Ltd for just 15 days.
Hitchins got the alarm bells ringing for Portsmouth fans three years ago, when he was part of a consortium interested in buying the club. Investigative blogs by Pompey fan Micah Hall certainly caused quite a stir – including this one about Hitchins – from which Hall faced a defamation case, that was later dropped, as he became a pivotal figure in getting the truth out there and helping Portsmouth avoid liquidation.
As Hall’s blog shows (and Companies House backs-up), for someone who’s occupation is a veterinary surgeon, Hitchin sure does have a wide array of previous business interests, that don’t seem to end well.
Just Google him and the first thing that you’ll be greeted with is a website set up by a company who is owed £16.255 by a company called Bestfeeds UK, that Hitchins is a director of. There was even a county court judgment for the money, but Bestfeeds was struck off without filing any accounts
When you look at an email chain on the site regarding the chasing of the debt, another of Xia’s helpers crops up, the Swiss-based Christopher Samuelson.
So there is a previous relationship there and it seems that Hitchins is working under/with Samuelson in terms of Recon and Villa.
Now, business is business and sometimes the reality is it’s not for the most angelic, but should we be concerned here?
This isn’t a case of looking for holes in the takeover, because not only has MOMS got better things to do, but like most Villa fans, we want the scenario to be: Chinese owner with ambition and big plans comes in and restores glory to Aston Villa football club.
I’m sure most Villa supporters will agree, we’d rather concentrate on football matters and not get caught up with any of the kind of drama that seems to follow some of these characters involved in the takeover, but the question has to be asked, why does Xia and the Recon group actually need these people to help through their deal?
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