American takeover of Ipswich Town could already be in progress as Suffolk solicitor explains Land Registry Purchase Searches at Playford Road and Bent Lane
A Suffolk solicitor believes his research could shed a light on the possible sale of Ipswich Town Football Club.
Speculation Marcus Evans is looking to sell the club has grown in recent weeks, leading to the Blues' owner issuing an address to fans last Wednesday evening saying no acceptable deal is currently on the table.
However, research carried out by Paul Munnings, commercial property associate at Ipswich-based solicitors Prettys – the subject of which has also been reported by TWTD after he posted about it on their fans' forum – suggests a deal could be close.
“Priority searches have been lodged through HM Land Registry by a national law firm in favour of their client Gamechanger 20 Limited regarding three parcels of land – the club’s Playford Road and Bent Lane training centres on the outskirts of Ipswich which are owned by Marcus Evans Group," he said.
“A priority search is typically only carried out in the immediate days before an exchange of contracts so this is likely to mean that a conditional contract for the takeover of the club is already in place.
“The fact that the searches remain on the register at the time of writing suggests a deal has likely been agreed or is imminent and may be announced by the English Football League in the coming days.”
He added his research confirms what Ipswich Town supporters have been speculating over recent weeks, with the exit of manager Paul Lambert and the appointment of successor Paul Cook "a key indicator that something more was happening behind the scenes".
Posting as 'Muncher' on the TWTD forum, Munnings explained: "The Playford Road site (2 parcels of land) is the subject of a priority search in respect of an intended purchase by Gamechanger 20 Ltd which was lodged on 23 February by law firm Gateley PLC out of their Birmingham office (first instruction by that client).
"The Bent Lane site is subject to a similar priority search in respect of part of the site only, meaning the Evans group company is retaining part of it.
"A priority search is carried out by solicitors to preserve their place in the queue of potential applications for dealing, it confers a priority period of about 45 days.
"It is a matter of public record and available to view by professionals who have the requisite portal account.
"It is typically only done in the immediate anticipation of completing a transaction, it can be done slightly ahead of this, but usually is done on the day of exchange of contracts.
"I’m a commercial property solicitor so carry out these searches on a regular basis.
"My best guess (based on the timing of the search) is Evans likely entered into a conditional contract last Tuesday for the sale of the land (and club).
"You would not carry out such a search unless a deal including the detail had either been agreed or was extremely close. The reason such searches are not carried out lightly is because it prevents the proprietor from entering into other transactions while the priority is lodged. If a deal is not happening you should cancel the search, but all 3 remain in place.
"There is no corresponding priority search in respect of the stadium lease and I would not expect there to be as the lease is owned by the club as tenant and I would expect Gamechanger 20 Ltd is acquiring the existing share capital owned by Evans."
According to TWTD, The Bent Lane site - which transferred to Marcus Evans (Guernsey) in 2012 - is part of a site that Evans would intend to keep hold of, following a takeover. Development has long been eyed for a small section of the field between already existing housing close to the road.
If the deal goes through, the League One club will be owned by football investors Brett M Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer, who are behind USA sides Phoenix Rising FC, FC Tucson and Danish side FC Helsingor.
Their reported involvement in a takeover bid was first broken by The Athletic's Matt Slater, who spoke about his article in further detail on Suffolk News' Ipswich Town columnist Martin Lambert's Talking Town podcast show last week.
When contacted about the priority searches, an Ipswich Town club spokesperson said: "Marcus Evans issued a statement to supporters last week and we have nothing further to add."
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