Farr Vintners chairman Stephen Browett has added a new property to his portfolio – Crystal Palace Football Club.
The London-based fine wine merchant is one of four members of a consortium that has just exchanged contracts for the south London football club and its ground, Selhurst Park.
Crystal Palace narrowly missed relegation from the Championship – the division below the Premier League – earlier this year, but pulled back from the brink with a last-day-of-the-season draw against Sheffield Wednesday.
The club, known as The Eagles, had been in financial straits for some time and in January had been docked ten league points for going into administration
The consortium – CPFC2010 – has revealed its members as Browett, TAG Worldwide owner Steve Parish, Churchill Insurance founder Martin Long, and Jeremy Hoskins of investment fund Marathon, and recent purchaser of Gravetye Manor Hotel in Sussex.
The four said they would now ‘start the process of rebuilding the club, starting first with the management and playing squad’.
They paid tribute to the ‘magnificent’ players who had been through an extremely unsettling few months, and ‘the fans of Crystal Palace FC whose tremendous support…has inspired us to keep going even when it looked like the club may indeed cease to exist in its current form’.
The club has seen months of upheaval during which passionate fans demonstrated against the threat of liquidation.
By reaching the deal, Palace has avoided becoming the first English club to be liquidated since 1992.
Browett told decanter.com he didn’t know of any other football clubs in wine trade ownership.
He added, ‘I was brought up in South London, near Crystal Palace, and have been a supporter since 1969, when I was 10 years old.’
The deal has delighted most fans. Multiple postings on the bulletin board at http://www.cpfc.org/forums/showthread.php?t=203480 referred to the four businessmen as ‘heroes’.
‘Happy Days. Excellent work and thank you to all involved’, said one post; ‘thank you for saving our club’ another.
A third said, succinctly, ‘Over the f*****g moon’.
Written by Adam Lechmere