Potential buyers of Derby County are walking away after discovering debts and future liabilities of more than £60million – including £8m owed to former boss Phillip Cocu and his two assistants.
We are told there is also an ‘eye watering’ HMRC bill north of £20m, as well as the £2.3m compensation payment to former captain Richard Keogh and a loan of £17.5m plus rolling interest with MSD Holdings, which is guaranteed against Pride Park.
Would-be buyers of the Championship club are abandoning talks when calculating they will have to find more than £60m between now and next summer, a figure consisting of debt and future liabilities in excess of expected revenue.
Potential buyers are walking away from buying Derby County after debts of more than £60m
And now, given the threat of a points deduction for a breach of EFL financial rules, sources close to investors say owner Mel Morris must revise his expectations if he is to sell the club and save it from the threat of liquidation.
Even if Morris were to give away the club for £1 – and that has been mooted – buyers do not believe Derby to be worth the £60m and more it would cost to cover liabilities in the first year.
One source said: ‘An option is that Derby go into administration to remove part of their debt. However, only non-football debt is wiped off by doing so, and that is less than £10m, which isn’t enough.
‘If he is going to sell the club, Mel Morris needs to give it away for nothing and agree to cover half of the debt. At the present time, because of the uncertainty over the points deduction, it looks unsellable.
Even if Mel Morris were to give away the club for £1, buyers still do not believe £60m is worth it
‘To pay, in effect, £60m for Derby, it makes no business sense at all, especially as there are plenty of other clubs for sale right now. Someone could be tempted if you thought the squad needed one or two additions and could challenge for promotion to the Premier League, like what happened at Aston Villa.
‘But Derby are in a mess, on and off the pitch. If Mel Morris is unable to find the right buyer, then we could be looking at the biggest liquidation in the history of British football.’
Sources say it is little wonder Morris held on in the hope of Erik Alonso finding the money to proceed with his takeover, given the Spaniard had agreed to pay £5m over 12 months and take on the debt. But Alonso failed to produce the funds and Morris has finally abandoned hope of that deal being completed.
Derby have not filed their accounts for the past two years, so the true picture of their financial state is not known publicly.
But those with knowledge of the books have told Sportsmail they do not make for comfortable reading.
Derby survived on the final day of the Championship season but could still be punished for FFP
Cocu, for example, was sacked in November, along with assistants Chris van der Weerden and Twan Scheepers. We are told there was no break clause in their contracts and more than £8m was owed in severance.
Meanwhile, Morris has told Sportsmail that the £60m figure quoted is based on a ‘worst case scenario’. He also makes the point that the MSD loan equates roughly to the stadium mortgage he cleared after buying the club.
And with regards the HMRC debt, Morris says many Championship clubs have had to rely on a deferral of PAYE taxes to cope with the impact of Covid-19 and how it has decimated club revenues.