Report of open meeting - 13/3/17
Around 350 O's fans gathered at short notice yesterday evening (13 March), to hear latest developments around the winding up petition on the club that is due to be heard on 20 March.
LOFT arranged this meeting as soon as possible after the SGM of its members on 2 March, so that we could update all O's fans of our progress regarding the fight to prevent Leyton Orient being liquidated at the hearing.
A full account of the meeting is available on the Waltham Forest Guardian's live blog, as well as on the Orient Outlook Twitter feed, and the video stream is on our Facebook page.
After hearing from local councillors Louise Mitchell and Paul Douglas, then Neil Taylor from the Leyton Orient Trust - all of whom pledged their support for what LOFT is doing - LOFT board member Adam Michaelson updated on our plans to be represented at the hearing.
LOFT members had mandated at the SGM for LOFT to seek administration of the club to prevent its liquidation, or to seek an adjournment if LOFT's Board felt that was a better prospect for the club's future.
LOFT has been acting on that mandate, and Adam explained that LOFT is being represented for free by excellent and expert lawyers in this regard, liaising with the pre-eminent football Insolvency Practitioner.
The fluid nature of the situation means that the final decision on which course to take can likely only be made at the hearing. It all depends on whether the debt to HMRC is paid in the meantime, and what representation - if any - is made either by the current club owner or any potential buyer.
Adam explained that the reported interest in buying the club means that administration may pose a risk to such a sale, which adds to the complexity of the situation. Simply put, we do not want whatever we do to jeopardise any potential for an orderly transfer of club ownership.
Furthermore, any administration would almost certainly lead to a significant and probably near-total loss of admin and coaching jobs at the club. We feel that at this time, if there IS a possibility that the club will be sold, we would want very much to avoid this. As such, we would want to try and avoid an administration altogether if a transfer of the club can occur.
That notwithstanding, we stand ready to pursue administration in the event that we see no other option available. LOFT and our legal representatives will be ready for all eventualities on the morning of the hearing, and will be ready to change course during the hearing if need be.
In short, we would like to reassure all Orient supporters that whatever case is argued by our expert legal team at the hearing on the 20th, it will be with the best long-term interests of the club at the forefront. The authority we have received from various shareholders and creditors gives us the best chance possible to have standing in the court next Monday.
As well as the legal progress to date, we also reported on the progress of our fundraising efforts so far.
LOFT's secretary Jonathan Kaye reported that Regeneration Fund monies at hand were at around £77,000 before Saturday's bucket collections. Thanks to a fantastic response by both Orient and Grimsby fans at the game, and all the hard work by collectors, over £13,000 was due to be paid in from the buckets - meaning that the fund will have broken through the £90k mark.
We also fed back on our early thinking regarding larger-scale fundraising, to go with a business plan being drawn up on how a supporter-owned club could operate in League Two or the National League, if such a model became the only viable means for Leyton Orient to continue:
- A one-off Community Share issue by LOFT with incentives for shareholders
- Regular donations by supporters
- An annual crowdsourcing fundraiser (eg Kickstarter or similar) with rewards at different tiers of donation
We will develop these plans and report back on progress.
Overall, our message from the evening is that we will do everything we can to ensure that there is still a Leyton Orient on 21 March and for the future.
Thank you to the many who came along at relatively short notice, and the hundreds who followed events online. Once again, as with the SGM, our very grateful thanks to Elliot Byrne for live streaming the meeting, to Steve from the Orient Outlook Podcast for live Tweeting, and to Shona Duthie from the Waltham Forest Guardian for their live coverage.