25th Sep, 2018

Top judge Sir Brian Leveson to hear today’s case into Coventry council’s Ricoh Arena sale to Wasps

Les Reid 26th Jun, 2018 Updated: 26th Jun, 2018

ONE of the country’s best known judges is set to hear the latest High Court hearing today into Coventry council’s sale of the Ricoh Arena to Wasps in 2014.

He is Sir Brian Leveson, who oversaw a high-profile inquiry into press and media standards after the phone hacking scandal.

He is listed as the President of the Queen’s Bench Division as one of three judges for today’s hearing – brought by Coventry City Football Club’s owners Sisu and related companies.

The others are Lord Justice McCombe and Lord Justice Irwin for the case which starts at 10.30am in the Roll’s Building of the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

The hearing is expected to last two days.

The application by Sky Blue Sports & Leisure Limited and other related Coventry City companies versus Coventry City Council was previously scheduled for May, and it is thought it was re-scheduled due to judges’ availability.

Coventry City Football Club’s owner Sisu was last September given permission to appeal against a judge’s previous decision to refuse a High Court judicial review into the stadium sale to Wasps in October 2014.

London-based hedge fund Sisu claimed at the High Court in Birmingham last July that the council and Alan Edward Higgs Charity’s circa £19million stadium company sale unlawfully shortchanged the taxpayer under ‘state aid’ laws by around £30million, with an uncompetitive deal.

Sisu has suggested Wasps, already over £35million in debt, should pay the shortfall to the council.

The claim was rejected by a judge last July whose decision to refuse a judicial review hearing will today be re-examined.If the appeal is successful, it will move to a full judicial review of the council’s sale of the Ricoh to Wasps – the first to take place.

The ‘state aid’ claim was made on the basis that the stadium company, Arena Coventry Limited (ACL), was sold to then London Wasps Holdings Limited on a massively extended lease from 41 to 250 years.

ACL on the new lease term had later been independently valued at £48million. The £19million deal included just £1million for the lease extension, £2.77million each for the council and Higgs’ charity’s shares in ACL, and paying off the council’s loan.

A separate judicial review into an earlier Coventry City Council £14.4million taxpayer bailout of the Ricoh Arena was heard in 2014 – after a judge had initially refused to allow the hearing to take place.

Sisu had been successful in overturning that judgment, only to lose the subsequent judicial review, an appeal, and further attempts at appeal.

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