When Sisu took over Coventry City in 2007 there was an option in place to re-acquire the 50% shareholding that had been sold by former directors to the Alan Edward Higgs Charity (“AEHC”) for £6.5 million. This option included a formula to determine the price at which these shares could be purchased. Buying back the shares would also have given the football club access to revenue streams from food & beverages, car parking etc., income which has been the subject of much controversy in later years.
There was a period of almost 7 years between Sisu buying the football club and Wasps taking control of the Ricoh. For most of this time Sisu made little effort to secure the position of the football club at the stadium, which it could have done by exercising the share option.
Finally, in June 2012 Sisu agreed terms with AEHC but the deal was never concluded, not least because Sisu drastically changed their mind about the financial value of those shares following due diligence. It emerged during one of the many court hearings that Joy Seppala considered the shares to be worthless but had still been prepared to pay £2 million of the originally agreed £5.5 million. Ms Seppala’s personal assistant, Laura Deering (who is now one of two directors of Sky Blue Sports & Leisure, parent company of Otium, along with Tim Fisher) explained why Sisu had been willing to pay £2 million above their estimate of real value:
“She [Joy Seppala] recognised that the Company [ACL] was worth nothing” but “She recognised they were a Charity” and “She recognised the value of what the Charity had given”. Laura Deering, April 2014
By this time, Coventry City’s tenure at the Ricoh was already on a precarious path. Under direction from Tim Fisher, Chief Executive at that time, the club began to withhold rent in March 2012. This action, later described by a High Court Judge as a “Rent Strike”, eventually led to the Sky Blues’ departure from the Ricoh in 2013. Legal enforcement processes taken by ACL would have led to the Administration of CCFC but Sisu pre-empted that by appointing their own Administrator on 21st March 2013 and club staff departed from the Ricoh the following day.
From that day forward, Coventry City’s occupancy at the Ricoh has been severely diminished, even non-existent in the dark days at Northampton and has never had any sense of permanence.
Until relatively recently, the noises emanating from Sisu and the Football Club have been consistent in one respect: there has been no intention for the Sky Blues to play at the Ricoh, except on a temporary basis.