Morecambe FC ownership fight may soon end

Diego Lemos.
Diego Lemos.

The saga over who owns Morecambe Football Club could soon be over.

Diego Lemos, a Brazilian businessman who is claiming ownership of the club, has been told to pay more than £86,000 in costs within a fortnight or his case will be struck out.

The High Court in Manchester made the ruling on Tuesday.

Mr Lemos, who was not present for the hearing, claims he is the majority shareholder in G50 Holdings, a company he set up to buy shares in Morecambe FC last September.

He has applied for an injunction over G50 and Morecambe FC.

But tax consultant Graham Burnard is also claiming ownership because Mr Lemos did not pay him for the share issue in G50 so he retained 99 per cent of shares in his own name.

Four conditions of an order were read out at the High Court which Mr Lemos must comply with by 5pm on May 16.

The court was unsure of Mr Lemos’ whereabouts so the order will be emailed to him.

They also heard that Mr Lemos’ previous solicitors were no longer acting for him.

If he complies with the order there will be more hearings.

Lynne Brooke, a solicitor representing Mr Burnard, said afterwards that the Shrimps were in a good position now and that Mr Burnard had stabilised the club.

Amidst a cash crisis at the Globe Arena this season, staff wages have been paid for the last few months with the help of Abdulrahman Al-Hashemi, a Qatari businessman who Mr Burnard works for.

Mr Al-Hashemi first came into the club as co-chairman alongside Mr Lemos when the Brazilian was unveiled as the new owner of Morecambe FC last September.

But in December, Mr Al-Hashemi resigned saying Mr Lemos had “seriously misled” him.

They have been on opposite sides of the legal battle for ownership.

BACKGROUND

Diego Lemos became majority shareholder of Morecambe FC in September 2016 after buying shares from former owner, and club chairman Peter McGuigan, and promised “great things” for the club.

But the first inkling of a major crisis came in October 2016 when staff and player wages were paid late.

Mr Lemos apologised and said he was “committed to taking the club forward”.

But then in mid-November he went AWOL from the Globe and directors said they could not contact him.

Two directors then resigned in December - Mr Al-Hashemi and Nigel Adams, long-term Morecambe FC vice-chairman, who quit citing a lack of financial information from Mr Lemos.

Then a company linked to the Globe Arena, PMG Leisure Ltd, went into administration, leading to the closure of the club’s all-weather pitches.

In January, controversial Italian businessman Joseph Cala claimed he’d struck a deal to buy the Shrimps.

Mr Cala caused chaos at the Globe by acting like the owner and threatening to lay staff off before he’d officially bought the club, behaviour for which he later apologised.

Then Mr Lemos resurfaced, saying he was still the owner and denied he’d been uncontactable.

But Mr Burnard then said he was actually the owner because Mr Lemos had failed to pay him for issuing shares in G50.

Mr Burnard, a Durham tax consultant, said the club would not be sold until it was stabilised.

The case went to court and a previous hearing in February saw Mr Lemos ordered to pay £15,000 plus VAT to Mr Burnard by March 10 as an interim payment towards Mr Burnard’s costs.

The judge also said there was “no order” on Mr Lemos’ application for an injunction over Morecambe Football Club and G50 Holdings Ltd and that Mr Burnard should not “deal with, dispose of, diminish the value of, charge, or otherwise encumber” the 99 shares in G50 Holdings Limited currently registered in his name without first giving 14 days’ notice to Mr Lemos.

Lynne Brooke welcomed this after the hearing and said it was a “bruising defeat” for Mr Lemos.

At the time, Mr Lemos’ representatives did not reply when asked for comment.