Owners of strife-hit Warriors set to split

By Steve Deane

Sir Owen Glenn (right) has had discussions with fellow co-owner Eric Watson (left) about selling his 50 per cent stake in the club. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Sir Owen Glenn (right) has had discussions with fellow co-owner Eric Watson (left) about selling his 50 per cent stake in the club. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Sir Owen Glenn offered to buy the Warriors outright from co-owner Eric Watson but then offered to sell his shares when Watson's valuation was "grossly excessive,'' according to Sir Owen.

The pair have fallen out and a split between the multimillionaires seems imminent.

"Given the breakdown of our relationship, both business and personal, I suggested that I should acquire a 100 per cent stake in the Warriors,'' Sir Owen said in another statement released this morning. "I was pleased with the outcome, as it would have enabled me, along with appropriately appointed board members, to make the necessary changes that would create a new culture and environment for the Warriors to succeed and prosper. Eric Watson's ask for his 50 per cent stake, which I will not disclose, was grossly excessive.

Read Sir Owen Glenn's statement

"My only option, therefore, was to suggest that on the same value he should acquire my stake. Not surprisingly, after some discussion, negotiations ceased.''

Sir Owen told RadioSport this morning Watson offered him $1 million for his 50 per cent share in the club, a stake he originally paid $6.15 million for. He also said he's been ostracised from the club for some time.

"I just feel like an outsider to the club,'' he said from Paris. "Why keep money in it if you are not getting anything out of it? I'm not talking about dividends. I've never received a cent.

"I sorta backed off. I didn't bother going to any meetings. They stopped telling when there were meetings anyway and I then said to Eric, 'well this isn't going to work - what's the point'.''

Sir Owen's comments followed a statement in which he blasted the rugby league franchise for its "diabolical" behaviour in passing off the sacking of coach Matthew Elliott as a resignation - a move he said was "dishonourable treatment of an honourable man''.

He also said he was unaware Elliott was going to leave the club - something both Watson and the Warriors later disputed.

He re-iterated his views in this morning's statement.

"I want to make it quite clear I was not consulted on the termination of Matt Elliott's appointment as Warriors' coach. I was advised once the decision was made and the matter was a fait accompli. As co-owner of the Warriors, I find that position completely unacceptable.

"My single representative on the Warriors' board, who was dealing with a close family bereavement at the time these matters came to a head, has told me they were under the impression that Matt had 'resigned'. I believe her account.

"Eric Watson has said that I had asked `not to be fully involved' in the running of the Warriors and Bill Wavish claims that I `had previously asked not to be consulted directly on decisions'. This is an untruth. To the contrary, I agreed with Eric Watson that as shareholders we needed to be directly involved in major decisions regarding the Warriors management, selection of players and the coach. Eric Watson subsequently reneged on this arrangement.

"I want to repeat my charge that Matt Elliott has been treated less than honourably, and that continues to rankle with me because, as I said yesterday, he is a decent and honourable person. His graceful response to recent events has been a true measure of the man.''

Sir Owen said it was the lack of progress at the Warriors that he found disappointing.

He said he had talked to Mr Watson about parting company - "if talking is the way to [describe] it; you listen to him most of the time" - but he would not say whether the dispute was set for court.

"I'm not going to comment on any of that. I'm a businessman. I look at all options whatever I do. It's really a question of what is best for the sport and what is best for the both of us.''

Mad Butcher fuming
Warriors ambassador, businessman Sir Peter Leitch, said he was ``absolutely shell-shocked'' by Sir Owen's actions.

"I'm absolutely gutted by it, absolutely gutted by Sir Owen's comments and the way he's done it,'' he told TV One's Breakfast programme.

Problems should be dealt with behind closed doors, Sir Peter said, adding that by criticising his own club Sir Owen risked de-valuing its worth.

"He's gotta go, he's burnt the bridges - he didn't damage the bridge, he blew it up and there's nothing left,'' Sir Peter said.

"To come out and do what he's done has damaged the club. I feel violated. I'm gutted, I feel terrible about it all.''

He visited Elliott during the week, he said, but had not discussed whether Elliott had chosen to resign or was pushed.

Sir Peter ruled out his support for bringing Graham Lowe in as a new coach for the Warriors squad saying, he had "had his day as a coach''.

"Graham's a great guy, he's done more for rugby league than a lot of people ... but we need young blood and I think we've got the right guy in there now. We just have to get behind him.''

Watson - Everyone knew Elliott was going

Mr Watson told Newstalk ZB everyone on the board - including Sir Owen's representative - knew that the club was going to let Elliott go.

Sir Owen's comments came as a shock, he said. "It's caught me completely by surprise, which is not something that makes me very happy.''

Mr Watson said a board meeting had taken place within hours of the Warriors' 37-6 thrashing by the Cronulla Sharks on Saturday. "If they'd beaten the Sharks, he [Elliott] would probably still be the coach.''

Mr Watson confirmed he and Sir Owen had been in discussions "for some months'' about him buying Sir Owen's shareholding.

Sir Owen said that despite his having invested a considerable sum to buy a 50 per cent stake, it remained very much Mr Watson's club.

"The actual running of the club, the day-to-day decision-making on everything, never left Eric's hands. Everyone on the board and the manager [chief executive Wayne Scurrah] did exactly what he said. It wasn't a partnership.

"It's a wonderful club and fans and everything but I think there is something missing in the whole structure ... It is difficult to get into and probe because there is a defensive attitude within the club's administration.''

The war of words was triggered by Sir Owen's statement about Elliott's departure, which he said appeared to be a "knee-jerk decision" made "without ratification by the full board''.

"Adding insult to injury, there appears to have been an effort to evade accountability for the decision by dressing it up as a voluntary resignation, rather than calling it by its proper name.

"This was clearly designed to convey the impression that Matt Elliott chose not to stay. The Matt Elliott I know is not a quitter.''

A Warriors statement said Sir Owen did know of the decision to sack Elliott.

Chairman Bill Wavish said: "I met with Matt on Sunday morning with the full knowledge and unanimous support of the board. This support included Sir Owen's representative on the board, who subsequently told me that Sir Owen was informed.''

Mr Wavish said Sir Owen had previously asked not to be contacted directly on decisions as his shareholding was held in trust.

Sir Owen bought into the club in April 2012 through Kea Investments, registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Mr Watson's 50 per cent stake can be traced to Cullen Business Trust, of which he is the sole shareholder.

- NZ Herald

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