By Paul McBeth
Embattled property developer Terry Serepisos says he decided to relinquish control of the Wellington Phoenix A-league soccer team, though the handover could have been handled differently.
Serepisos, who is currently embroiled in court proceedings to orchestrate the orderly sell-down of a NZ$232.5 million property portfolio, told a media conference in Wellington the Welnix Ltd. consortium which has taken over the Phoenix licence “possibly should have approached me.”
He had no talks with them about the deal. He stressed that he wasn’t forced out of the Phoenix, rather it was a good time for him to hand over control and give him time to focus on his personal life.
“I think the consortium could have handled it a little bit different, but as I said we’re here now and this is done,” Serepisos said. “We have to do the right thing for the right reason.”
The Welnix consortium announced its successful application earlier in the day, and plans to get the club self-sustaining and running profitably.
It will need some start-up funding to keep operating and bring on more administration and coaching support staff, Rob Morrison told a separate media briefing in Wellington today.
Serepisos said he expects to have his court proceedings settled next week, though he declined to elaborate on any details.
Last month, the High Court in Wellington granted him more time to convince creditors owed almost $204 million that an orderly sale of his assets was in their best interests, and would leave a surplus of some $30 million.
The property portfolio includes some 150 residential properties and about six commercial properties, primarily in Wellington. The property developer said he was disappointed no-one came with a proposal for the Phoenix earlier, and that “all these people should have come forward a long time ago.”
He took a spray at Wellington City Council, saying it “hasn’t helped me, and yet the council wants to be part of this and do all these things for Wellington, but it didn’t.”
Running the Phoenix was a money-making venture for him, and he said he had put in between $8 million and $10 million over his four-year tenure as owner.
The consortium is made up of businessmen including chairman Rob Morrison (who is also Kiwibank's chairman), Gareth Morgan, Infratil founder Lloyd Morrison, Campbell Gower, James Brown and Henry Tait, and has taken a five-year licence for the club, taking over all of its intellectual assets.
Welnix was incorporated on Sept. 14 and lists Rob Morrison as director and ultimate shareholder, according to the Companies Office.
(Updates with video of Morgan & Morrison, video of Serepisos answering media questions)