Hello again everyone.
Firstly, I would like to thank the 150-plus CPO Shareholders who attended the AGM last week. As I hope was clear to all those present, as a Board we were keen from the outset to ensure that all Shareholders were given full opportunity to express their views and share their ideas.
It is in the interests of all shareholders that in future we make room for the full range of opinions. Nevertheless, the exchanges were passionate and helpful and the Board will consider very carefully the issues raised.
The Board has given a commitment to acting transparently to ensure CPO and all its Shareholders are treated fairly.In this light, we have agreed to publish minutes of future meetings of the CPO Board where feasible.
As we all should be aware, CPO was originally set up to raise the money necessary to acquire the freehold of the Ground and subsequently to ensure that Stamford Bridge was retained as the home of Chelsea Football Club, safe from property developers who did not have the best interests of the Football Club at heart.
In view of some of the confusion evident at the AGM, it is worth clarifying that at no stage has it ever been contemplated that CPO Shareholders would benefit financially from holding shares in CPO. The original covering letters from Ken Bates stipulated that each share would never be worth more than £100.
When I bought my shares in 1993 profiteering was the last thought on my mind: as a board we were very shocked and disappointed at people speaking at the AGM attempting to place a five-figure value on each share.
I would like to clear up another matter from the AGM. Some Shareholders had appointed me as their proxy, with discretion as to how to vote their shares.
In light of the strength of feeling expressed at the AGM, where I did have that discretion I voted against resolutions 9 (to authorise the directors to issue new shares), 10 (permitting the Board to issue new shares without first having to offer them to existing Shareholders) and 11 (to increase the maximum size of the Board).
Of course, where Shareholders had appointed me as their proxy with instructions as to how to vote on these resolutions, I voted in accordance with their wishes.
As has previously been announced, all of the resolutions forming the Ordinary Business of the meeting were passed (to receive the accounts, to re-elect Directors and to re-appoint the auditors and permit the Directors to fix their remuneration).
The defeat of resolution 11, though, means that the size of the Board will remain unchanged. On reflection I think that is probably a sensible decision for the time being. We already have a very committed group of five guys who give up their time for free, bring diverse views and complementary skills to the table, and only want what's best for CPO and CFC.
Following the passing of resolution 9 but the defeat of resolution 10, although legally the Board has the ability to issue new shares, it would first have to offer those shares to each and every existing Shareholder - effectively making the process unworkable.In any event, the Board has committed not to issue any further shares before the General Meeting we have agreed to convene.
We intend holding that further General Meeting in approximately three months. Before the meeting is convened, an investigation will be completed under the supervision of Gray Smith into the issue of excess shares last October and he will present fellow directors with recommendations as to what, if any, steps can be taken to mitigate the situation - including considering ideas raised at the AGM.
The meeting on Friday 20th January is one I will not forget: listening to so many Chelsea fans who have so much passion for our club. In future, I hope such meetings will maintain the emotion but express it in a more measured tone.
I'm sure I wasn't the only one who enjoyed hearing our former combative skipper, Dennis Wise, acting as the peacemaker! However, his message 'it's not "them" versus "us", we're all together' is a very relevant one that we should be mindful of going forward.
Chatting with fellow shareholders afterwards it was obvious there were many people in the room who felt uncomfortable expressing their views in such a confrontational atmosphere. That is not a healthy situation.
I think it also worth reiterating that Chelsea FC is not 'the enemy', as some shareholders appear to believe. It is vital that CPO has a good relationship with the club.
When setting up CPO, Ken Bates was keen to stress its independence from CFC and that independence remains an important attribute of CPO.
Nevertheless, times have changed over the intervening two decades. While reiterating that the Board is fully committed to the founding objectives of CPO, we believe we should consider proposals made by the Club from time to time if we believe they could enhance the long-term success of Chelsea FC and are in the interest of shareholders. CPO has no obligation to agree to any such proposals, of course.
Now that the five directors have been re-elected, Chelsea FC have invited the CPO Board to engage with them and discuss the stadium issues and whether future proposals are feasible. We are not aware of any current proposals but we will ensure all options are considered and, above all, the process must be open and fair to CPO Shareholders as far as possible.
Many shareholders have asked me to share with them our vision and priorities now that we have been endorsed as a Board for another year.
I would say they are as follows:
To investigate and review the recent sale of shares.
To review the process for selling shares going forward.
To review and improve the shares register.
To review methods of communication with shareholders.
To listen to all shareholders' views.
To engage in dialogue with Chelsea FC over all stadium issues.
To review and prepare resolutions for the forthcoming General Meeting.
To reintroduce CPO-badged fundraising events.
I thank you for your continued support and for re-electing me and my fellow Board members. I will endeavour to write again before the end of February.
All the best,