Leyton Orient granted a reprieve by High Court over debts

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Leyton Orient fans await the High Court decision

Leyton Orient owner Francesco Becchetti has paid the initial tax bill to HMRC to avoid an immediate winding-up order, but must pay off the remaining debts or sell the club.

The club’s Italian owner is now facing calls from fans to sell the club as soon as possible.

Mr Becchetti was given until 12 June to pay sums of money to four creditors, including £6,000 to the long-serving club photographer, at a High Court winding-up hearing.

Orient chief executive Alessandro Angelieri stated in court that Mr Becchetti will invest £1m in the next eight to ten weeks.  

However, Adam Michaelson, legal advisor to the Leyton Orient Fans’ Trust (Loft), treated the pledge with caution.

“The promise of £1m into the club within eight to ten weeks is something that we’re going to have to wait and see the outcome of,” he said. “It leaves the club in a state of significant uncertainty and, frankly, mortal danger.

“In respect to a potential sale we will call upon Mr Becchetti now to look to sell the club at the earliest possible opportunity and make good on his promise in order to do that [and] pass it into the hands of people that clearly understand more about running this kind of organisation than he does.

“We have advised the court that we understand there are potential offers to buy the club in place and that we would seek to have sufficient time for those to go through.”

Legal expert M. Ali Akram, of LexLaw Solicitors & Barristers, has suggested that the club may seek insolvency between now and 12 June.  

“It may well be the case that between now and 12 June, the insolvency event occurs,” he said.

“As I understand it, the club said they need to raise £1m, so that may well be suggestive of the value of the creditors out there.

Fans have started a crowdfunder to save Leyton Orient
Fans have started a crowdfunder to save Leyton Orient

“Only the club really knows what the creditors’ list is and what the size of it is, so I think the takeaway from this is the petition is extant – it still exists.”

The fans gathered outside the High Court were frustrated with the news and fearful for the future of their club.

David, 55, from Hackney said, “It’s still up in the air for another eight or 10 weeks now and he [Mr Becchetti] will carry on stringing this out.

“If the guy wants to be an absolute devil, which he has been, he could run us into the ground. What we need is a buyer to come in and takeover our club and run it properly.”

Bernard, 45, an Orient supporter for the last five years, said that he would consider not renewing his season ticket if Mr Becchetti remains in charge.

“I’m a season ticket holder [and] I may well not renew it if Mr Becchetti remains in charge,” he said. “I’m disappointed that he remains in control of the club, I’m hoping that this is a preliminary to selling it.”