Football finance expert Kieran Maguire believes William Storey, the British businessman rumoured to have agreed a £50m deal to buy Reading, would be worse than the current owner Dai Yongge.

The Telegraph broke the news that 45-year-old Storey has agreed a deal in principle, and is now required to pass the Owners and Directors' Test with the EFL.

The Reading Chronicle sat down with the award-winning author, university lecturer and podcast host to ask the questions fans have about the reported takeover.

Who is William Storey?

"He is the owner of an energy drinks company which went into liquidation owing lots of money. He has a string of other companies which he has formed, one was involved in boxing promotion, and another is called Sirles- I don’t know whether that is to do with Les Ferdinand. It is all very bizarre.

"His energy drinks company [Rich Energy] did sponsor Haas Formula One team for a while and then that deal was terminated, and nobody quite knows why. He has appeared in court, and I don’t think the judge was particularly impressed with the reliability of the evidence put forward by William Storey.

"He was linked with a takeover of Sunderland but that fell through, and he was then linked with the takeover of Coventry City but that fell through for unspecified reasons. It could be that he failed the Owners and Directors test for all I know.

"Certainly, looking at all the companies he has been associated with, there is no evidence of him possessing significant funds. Far be it for me to call him a delusional fantasist, but that is what he is.

"He may have agreed a deal with Dai Yongge but there are two issues, where is he going to get the money from and is he going to pass the owners and directors test of the EFL?

"I know people are quite critical of the EFL, but I know of quite a few people you wouldn’t want near a football club who they have proven to be undesirables and not managed to acquire the club, ironically including another person who was involved in an energy drinks company trying to take over Morecambe about six months ago. They are doing their best and operating within the parameters of their own constitution, but the EFL of 2023 is a far more robust organisation than the one of 2018 or 2019. There is a new team in town, and they take their role seriously, as we’ve seen at Reading with all the points deductions.

Is there a way around the Owners' and Directors' Test?

"Ultimately, the fit and proper persons test applies to the decision-makers. If he was only to be a front man then it wouldn’t be his funds, and they would have to assess the people with the financial resources. There would also be separate issues of asking questions in relation to who would be the shareholders in any corporate vehicle, and you need to have a corporate entity, which is taking over Reading Football Club. There are systems of checks of balances which will make it more difficult for an individual who is all front and no money. So, I’m hoping that will be the case. He will be worse than Dai Yongge. At least Dai Yongge has put money, historically, into the football club. He has not put it wisely into the club.

Will this hold up any other potential takeover bid by another party?

"The only thing which would delay another acquisition is if Dai Yongge has granted a period of exclusivity in which to do due diligence. It’s a bit like when you’re selling a house, you can have two or three interested parties and you might say whoever’s solicitor acts the fastest gets the rewards. It should preclude other interested parties. To a certain extent, you could say it shakes a few out of the tree. That could be a positive. I don’t consider him to be a serious contender. He took umbrage to some tweets I put out with him a couple of weeks ago and he said he was going to have a wager. I’m not in the habit of gambling with people who have got a string of companies dissolved behind them. The credibility is lacking.

Reading Chronicle:

Is £50m fair value?

"I know people will say that the Mad Stad is a relatively recent creation and will add value. It has got value but it is an Asset of Community value with a series of covenants which prevent it from being used for alternative purposes. We have to say it is a single-use piece of real estate, regardless of whether it is in Reading or Rotherham. Therefore, its value is ultimately determined by the cash generated from using it as a sports stadium, which in League One is modest. It is very difficult to justify that price. Sunderland were at the top end of League One when they were sold and they went for £30m. I know Derby were sold for £60m by the administrators but there are a lot of complications with that deal which have never been fully explained so I don’t think that has credibility. Wigan were sold for £20m when they were in the Championship or the top of League One. Why would you pay two-and-a-half times that for Reading?

Will he pass the Owners' and Directors' Test?

"My conclusion is that he is not a credible buyer and I think it is highly unlikely that he will pass the owners and directors’ test. I have had people from the Reading fans’ campaign group [Sell Before We Dai] on my show and I know the level of dissatisfaction with Dai Yongge. When it comes to rogue owners, I put them into two categories: idiots and scumbags. Dai Yongge is an idiot. He isn’t malicious, he wanted the club to get promoted but was poorly advised and doesn’t understand the industry. He was there to be ripped off. I don’t think he was inherently bad. 

What is the best next step for Reading?

"The administration route comes with a points deduction automatically, so that’s a downside. It does make the club a more attractive proposition from the perspective of the new owner because they would only be buying the asset of Reading Football Club. He would not inherit any of the legacy liabilities, such as the tax bill being run up by Dai Yongge. Your local creditors will take a hit because the EFL says you get a points deduction for going into administration, and unless you pay 25 per cent of what is owed to creditors, you will get a further 15-point deduction coming out of it. All the local suppliers, who have provided goods and services to Reading Football Club in good faith, are either sympathetic towards the club or supporters of the club so they tend to be a bit more generous. That is the downside of administration, which I think is ignored.

"The best solution would be to find someone willing to buy the club, Dai Yongge writes off the debts owed to him and sells to the new owner with tiered payments. Sell it for a pound, because the club are losing £500,000 a week based on the more recent accounts, and if they get promoted back then you get a set payment and if you get promoted to the Premier League you get another set payment. That is how I would be looking to structure it. Whether he can afford to do that, or whether his pride comes before his common sense, is a separate issue."


You can hear Kieran and comedian Kevin Day on their award-winning Price of Football podcast twice a week.