- Australian businessman has agreed to buy Southend United
- Troubled English football club on brink of liquidation
- Justin Rees hopes to emulate Ryan Reynolds’ impact at Wrexham
A consortium led by Australian businessman Justin Rees has agreed to take over struggling English fifth division football club Southend United.
Rees, a former University of Technology Sydney student, effectively saves the club from liquidation due to unpaid debts. Due to the British taxman and others, they total at least £1.3 million ($2.5 million).
Tuesday’s agreement comes a day before the club is due to go to the High Court to face a liquidation petition. This would be their 18th liquidation petition since 2009.
With an estimated completion date of early next month for the buyout, Southend may have to request another extension of the application, the fourth, at Wednesday’s hearing.
The purchase of Rees follows that of Swindon’s fourth level in 2021 by Sydney businessman Clem Morfuni, founder of plumbing chain Axis.
Australian businessman Justin Rees has agreed a deal to buy Southend United
Shrimpers on brink of liquidation but could be saved by Rees
Rees is said to have made his fortune in IT. On his LinkedIn page, he says he is co-founder of Eighty20 Solutions, in which he has since sold a majority stake. He worked in London from 2008 to 2011 as an equity derivatives trader before returning to Australia to work for Westpac and then Transport for NSW.
He met members of staff at the club and also spoke to the local MP.
Southend is a seaside resort located on the Thames Estuary, approximately 48 km east of London, known for its pier, considered the longest in the world at 2 km.
Having lost ten points due to their unpaid debts, the club currently sit 23rd in the 24-team National League, the last non-regionalized tier of the English football pyramid. Teams gained promotion to the EFL League Two, from which Southend dropped out in 2021 after 101 years.
The club, known as The Shrimpers, has been owned by local businessman Ron Martin for 25 years. During this period they reached the second tier and in 2006 won a famous cup victory against a Manchester United side which included Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.
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However, years of underinvestment led to the club leaving the EFL and supporters have been protesting against Martin’s ownership for some time.
A club statement said: “We can confirm that an agreement for the sale of the club has been reached with a consortium led by Justin Rees.
“Everyone is working towards a completion date of November 1, 2023, when the consortium will officially take control of the Club.