Intrigue … former Manly majority shareholder Scott Penn and Peter Peters.SCOTT PENN is no longer the majority shareholder of the Manly Sea Eagles. And for that, he can thank his uncle, Peter Peters.
In a delicious twist in the battle of control for the premiers, former media manager Peters unwittingly relinquished his family’s majority control of the clubs when he donated two memorabilia items, match programs for the 1972 and 1973 grand finals, for fundraising.
Those programs, along with a couple of other memorabilia pieces, fetched more than $70,000 when sold by the Manly-Warringah Rugby League Football Club. The MWRLC, also known as the District Club, used those funds to buy additional shares which bumped down Penn Sport’s stakeholding from 50.07 per cent to 49.5 per cent.
As of Thursday, Penn’s majority stake became a minority one. However, he wasn’t even aware he’d been outmanoeuvred in his battle for control of the Sea Eagles until he was blind-sided by the developments at a fiery board meeting that night.
Since gaining majority shareholding, Penn has complained that his stake isn’t reflected in the boardroom, pointing to the fact he held only three of the seven director’s seats. Last October he told The Sun-Herald he wanted to amend the constitution to ensure the biggest owner got the most seats. Ironically, he now has his wish. The Surfside syndicate comprising the Quantum group (37.57 per cent), along with District Club (12.93 per cent) together now hold the balance of power.
”If he has put that point of view in the past, the case now stands that he is not the majority shareholder,” said Quantum boss Phil Sidney, who was recently appointed the board spokesman after Penn was stripped of the role. ”So, on his own argument, he is not the majority shareholder and he should not have the majority of seats on the board. Which is now the case.
”In the last few years they have never really been the majority shareholder. It’s only occurred recently where they purchased the league club shares, which took them roughly to 51 per cent.
”However, the District Club are allowed to compulsorily acquire up to about 21 per cent of the club.
”The District Club did some fundraising and apparently that’s going to continue and they’re purchasing some shares which will change the percentages of the various parties involved in the club.”
In a further twist, the man who bought the programs donated by Peters was URM boss Anthony Johnston. As revealed in The Sun-Herald last October, Johnston – a club sponsor – has expressed an interest in buying into the Sea Eagles and it’s understood that position has not changed. Quantum has also stated it is prepared to buy out the Penns should they make good on their threat to walk away. The Penns had previously attempted to buy out Quantum.
Scott Penn remains chairman of Manly but it appears he is chairman in name only. He has been stripped of his role as board spokesman, doesn’t hold the numbers in the boardroom and is no longer the majority shareholder. A second no-confidence motion was passed against him at the most recent board meeting.
It has become clear the warring factions cannot work together. Peters has come onto the board in place of brother-in-law Rick Penn, but his presence has only heightened tensions. ”Zorba” was one of three directors who voted against a contract extension for David Perry, along with Scott Penn and Kerry Chrysiliou. It’s understood they wanted Perry to present a business plan until the end of 2015 before ratifying the deal. However, the motion was passed for Perry to be given a new three-year contract and to be given the title of general manager of the Sea Eagles. ”Peter Peters does not represent the membership component of the organisation. I do, as does Darrell Williams,” said Bob Reilly, the MWRLC chairman.
The battle lines have been clearly drawn. Prominent QC Christopher Branson, who has a long-standing association with Manly, said he would act on behalf of Reilly and Williams should the stoush become litigious. ”Any advice that emanated from me would be as a peacemaker, not as a war monger,” Branson said.
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