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What happened to Southend United and who are their new owners? Australian IT millionaire saves 117-year-old club while in Europe on gap year

Southend United’s future as a professional football club looked bleak heading into this week.

However, the 117-year-old side have been saved after a consortium led by businessman Justin Rees agreed a deal to complete a takeover. 

Southend have been saved

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Southend have been savedCredit: getty

The takeover is expected to be wrapped up in November with the Shrimpers now able to look towards a brighter future at Roots Hall. 

Ahead of the new ownership completing the move, talkSPORT.com takes a look at what exactly happened to Southend and who the consortium are…

What has happened to Southend United? 

As recently as 2007, Southend were playing their football in the second tier. 

However, they have since suffered from major financial problems and dropped out of the Football League in 2021.

Property developer Ron Martin had been the club’s owner for the last 25 years but he has led the Shrimpers into millions worth of debt. 

Martin owed large sums of money to HMRC, the club’s energy provider and football creditors. 

This terrible financial situation led Southend into a diabolical position, with some members of staff said to have waited four months before being paid their wages. 

Due to this, fans have been constantly protesting to get their owner out over the last few years.

Martin led the Shrimpers to near extinction

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Martin led the Shrimpers to near extinctionCredit: getty

Martin put the club up for sale in March before asking for only £1 for 70.6 per cent of the club in July, with the catch being he wanted £4.5million for their stadium, Roots Hall. 

He remained in charge despite the protests and even rejected takeover bids while the club’s debt led to them being docked 10 points. 

This deduction means the Shrimpers are now sat towards the bottom of the National League despite winning games against all the odds. 

A standout result came in September as they beat Maidenhead United with only 13 players in the squad and a 37-year-old goalkeeper playing for free. 

But the hard-earned results on the pitch wouldn’t help keep Southend afloat and after being dealt a winding-up order on Wednesday, the club looked defeated. 

However, Rees’ consortium agreed a deal with Martin in the final hours of the day and they saved Southend from impending doom. 

A statement from Southend read: “We can confirm that an agreement for the sale of the Club has been reached with a consortium led by Justin Rees. 

“Everyone is working towards a completion date of 1 November 2023, that is when the consortium will formally take control of the Club.

“The collaborative approach to agreeing this deal would not have been possible without the support of creditors and the assistance from the Leader of Southend City Council.

“We recognise that this has been a stressful time for all associated with the Club. 

“We would like to thank our staff for their incredible loyalty and also thank all our stakeholders for their patience.”

Southend were running out of time after receiving a winding-up order

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Southend were running out of time after receiving a winding-up orderCredit: getty

Who are their new owners? 

Southend’s new owners are a six-person consortium led by Australian businessman Rees. 

The millionaire is an IT project manager and company founder and has revealed that he made the decision to buy the club while on a gap year in Europe. 

Following discussions over the last three months, he has joined forces with Shrimpers supporters David Kreyling, Tom Arnold, Jason Brown, John Watson and Gary Lockett. 

Rees is a lifelong football fan and has said he wants to look back on his life knowing that he helped save a team from extinction.

Speaking to Guardian Australia, the 41-year-old said: “I was watching the story unfold on the BBC thinking, is someone going to take this over?”

Rees is part of a consortium that has struck a deal to buy Southend

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Rees is part of a consortium that has struck a deal to buy SouthendCredit: Rex

“When it becomes apparent that they’re not, it just feels like the right project to do next. 

“Three days after my first discussion with the current owner, I flew to Southend, met some of the management team at Roots Hall and knew I wanted to be involved.”

He continued: “Why a football club, and why a football club in distress? 

“It may seem strange to others but those that know me say, ‘you love football, you love businesses, you like challenges, you like driving things, it kind of makes perfect sense.

“If the club was completely stable, it wouldn’t be for me. It’s that challenge of the turnaround that excites me.

“There’s a 117-year old football club that was big, and is about to be extinct.

“If I can look back when I’m 70 and think, wow, I helped prevent that, I’ll be very happy.”

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