MULTI-Millionaire Steve Hayes is the new owner of Wycombe Wanderers after fans voted tonight to hand control of their 122-year-old club over to him.
The 48-year-old businessman, who also owns groundshare tenants London Wasps Rugby Club, seized control by a huge majority after an at times bitter takeover battle.
The Founder Shareholders voted 81 per cent in favour of his £3m bid after being given an accept it or sink ultimatum. The shareholders then followed up with a 99 per cent vote in favour.
Hayes, who has ploughed almost £7m into the League One club in the form of loans, warned fans that he would stop funding the club if they voted against his plan to write off £3m of that figure in
return for full ownership.
Club directors backing the Hayes plan then beefed up that threat by saying a no vote would result in the club going into administration and being docked ten points.
No other alternatives were put on the table.
The supporters were given just over a fortnight to decide whether to accept the plan of managing director Hayes.
It is a momentous change in the club’s history with fans voting away the last trace of the supporter-ownership which served them on their rise from the Isthmian League to the professional ranks.
Throughout that period Wanderers were run by a structure in which fans who had held season tickets for three years could pay one pound to become members. That gave them a stake in the club's
ownership and the right to elect the directors.
The first controversial change to that system came in 2004 when the board argued it was holding the club back from securing new investment and called for it to become 75per cent owned by
individuals, with fan-members holding just 25 per cent.
The change was approved allowing Hayes to take a 25per cent shareholding and become the club’s MD.
But despite him ploughing £7m into the club in the form of loans the club’s debt has mushroomed to where it is now, standing at £7.2m at the last set of accounts.
Hayes has admitted he has made mistakes along the way but called for the fans to trust him.
He says he intends to continue working with positive members of the Supporters Trust.
And fans can expect big changes under him with Hayes the driving force behind plans for his two clubs Wanderers and Wasps to share a new 20,000 community stadium at Wycombe Air Park.