The Benevolent Dictator
Feature by INOIT
Updated Monday, 5th March 2012
Wednesday 31st May 1988 is a significant dateline in the history of Blackpool Football Club.....a day when the name Oyston became synonymous with everything Tangerine.
On a Wednesday evening nearly 24 years ago Blackpool FC was taken over by an "invisible man" in the most bloodless coup the club has ever experienced.
Only forty two shareholders attended this low key meeting and they were greeted by the peculiar sight of an empty chair on the top table which divided Oyston''s company advisers on the Board and the remaining Blackpool F.C. directors.
Blackpool FC''s chairman at that time, Ken Chadwick, explained that Mr Oyston considered his absence would enable the shareholders to have an open, frank discussion on the proposed take-over bid without ''feeling any embarrassment''.
Mr Chadwick also revealed that Oyston didn''t vote his 48% of the shares because he wanted the body of shareholders to either give him a show of faith or kick out his ''survival plan''.
Solicitor, Michael Connolly, who had stepped into the breach when Owen Oyston failed to appear at the meeting was quick to give assurances to those present that, if successful, Oyston would not use his overwhelming power to take autocratic decisions if there was any suggestion that the club could be harmed.
Connolly went on to stress that any major moves would be referred to the other directors and shareholders for approval as the business baron''s plans to develop the club gradually started to evolve. Mr Chadwick said that Oyston''s plans for a Leisure Palace incorporating a soccer stadium were the only way forward. "We don''t want to revert to the bad old days of selling players to survive. The directors are happy to put complete faith in Owen who has certainly proved his credibility and integrity".
Chadwick went on to say that Seasiders'' supporters'' fears about the possible fate of the club were naturally shared by everyone. Owen, everyone was assured, had a superb reputation as a Blackpool and Lancashire businessman and Blackpool FC were quite right to put their faith in him.
Mr Chadwick also revealed that income from league gates during the previous season, (1987/8), was about £200,000 and the overall wage bill was £352,000.
"This shortfall would have to be funded by the sale of players in the past but Owen has stopped all that".
Owen Oyston took up 35,000 new shares which were set a value of only £1.43 and it was reported that he had advanced a loan of nearly £270,000 which could not be removed from the club''s coffers if it ''tugged Blackpool FC towards insolvency''.
Oyston was also reported to be supplying more than £200,000 for new players. "Blackpool FC was now being rapidly sucked into the Oyston business empire", commented the Evening Gazette in the days that followed the historic meeting.
Shareholder Peter Gudgeon felt that Mr Oyston should be made to pay £5 a share which was a far more realistic figure. His vehement objections, however, fell on stony ears and Oyston received his shares at the knock-down price. At this point Mr Connolly, acting for Oyston, claimed that any broker would laugh at anyone who claimed that Blackpool Football Club''s shares were worth as much as £5 each and he stressed that the cash Mr Oyston had already injected represented substantially more than £5 a share anyway.
Oyston, described as a "benevolent dictator" in the Evening Gazette, did in fact turn up some time after the meeting had ended and explained to reporters "It had to be the shareholders'' choice whether they wanted me to take the initiative or not. I''m committed to securing a successful future for the football club but it has to be done my way and can only be completed if all the shareholders are behind what I am trying to do".
The fate of Blackpool''s only professional club was suddenly thrust firmly in the grasp of one individual for the first time in the club''s long history and there wasn''t any word of opposition to the take-over.
The Oyston era at Bloomfield Road was well and truly underway!