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UPDATE: Darryl Eales to become chairman of Oxford United as Waddock replaced as head coach + read the full statement

ANNOUNCEMENT: Ian Lenagan, centre, with Darryl Eales to his left and Mark Ashton to his right

ANNOUNCEMENT: Ian Lenagan, centre, with Darryl Eales to his left and Mark Ashton to his right

First published in Headlines
Last updated

Businessman Darryl Eales will become chairman of Oxford United.

In a statement released today, current chairman Ian Lenagan revealed Mr Eales was a new investor and shareholder at the club.

Each of the Lenagan Family and Mr Eales now has more than 30% of the shares of Oxford United Ltd but both with less than 50%.

A new board of directors has been set up with Mr Eales taking up the position of chairman, Mark Ashton appointed as chief executive and Ian Lenagan taking board responsibility for the stadium development project.

Head coach Gary Waddock has been replaced by Michael Appleton - appointed by Mr Ashton who said he wanted to work with his own man as head coach and had worked with Mr Appleton before.

Appleton has previously managed Portsmouth and Blackburn Rovers.

Mr Lenagan's two sons, Simon and Adrian, have stepped down from the board of directors.

He revealed discussions had been ongoing for the past year but became crucial when the stadium development became "time-critical".

Ian Lenagan said: "Darryl is a football fan and a very successful businessman with, of importance, significant commercial experience.

"Darryl and I share the same personal and business style and have an identical approach to the strategies required for the ongoing success of Oxford United. We also have precisely the same ambitions for the club."

Lenagan, talking about the rival bid from Charlie Methven’s consortium, said: “We did finally get a bid from them yesterday, but that was conditional on us having done the deal on the stadium already.

“Darryl is quite prepare to take the risk and move forward.

“Charlie and his group are nice people and they are welcome to come and talk to us if they wish to do so and if they wish to inject further finances to make things go quicker, of course we’d be delighted to speak.”

Stewart Donald, the wealthy businessman behind Mr Methven's bid, said: “I am hoping that this will be good news and that Darryl Eales is in it for football rather than making money.

“If their intentions are similar to Charlie Methven’s vision then that will be great news but we are going to have to let time tell.”

New chairman Mr Eales said he considered himself the "custodian" of the club.

He said: "I would like to add that I have been impressed with everything I have seen at the club over the past months and I am delighted to be involved in conjunction with Ian Lenagan in driving Oxford United even faster along the already-defined strategy to achieve its ambitions.

"I look forward to meeting many of the fans, staff and partners of the club in the immediate future."

Oxfordshire businessman Charlie Methven has said he is disappointed that his alternative bid wasn't successful but said he hopes the U's go from strength to strength. 

Read the whole statement in full:

A statement from Oxford United Chairman, Ian Lenagan:

There has been much speculation over the past few weeks that the Lenagan family was selling its shares in Oxford United and moving on. That is not the case. What we have been doing is planning ahead for the next stage of development of Oxford United.

The past two years since I took over as chairman on July, 13 2012 have seen many advances including paying off of debts, financial stabilisation, recruitment and bedding in of a highly capable sales and marketing team, the real implementation of a young player development strategy, a better match-day experience and involvement of fans generally, a good relationship with the supporters trust, OxVox, and the development of a much better relationship with Firoz Kassam as owner of the stadium and conference centre.

The board of directors was convinced that an excellent base had been firmly established for the future success of the club.

However, the disappointment of not achieving the play-offs at the end of last season was an indication that even greater investment was perhaps needed to get up into League 1.

Of even more importance however was the growing certainty that – with the radical changes likely in the planning landscape for Oxford in the next 12 months and the opportunity which that could present to Oxford United finally to own its own stadium – it was vital at this crucial time to plan ambitiously to take advantage of these opportunities or to lose them.

That meant a further significant investment in financial and management terms;
financially to fund increased running cost and capital investment in a stadium project and, in management terms, to both run the club on a day-to-day basis whilst also devoting dedicated and experienced resource exclusively to the Stadium Project.

It was decided that this was the time to bring additional financial and management resources into the club alongside the Lenagan family in order to ensure this one-time opportunity would not be missed.

Consequently, I am delighted to announce the arrival of a new investor and shareholder in Oxford United, Darryl Eales, to stand alongside the Lenagan Family bringing significant extra financial investment and management skills into Oxford United.

Darryl is a football fan and a very successful businessman with, of importance, significant commercial experience. Until May of this year Darryl was CEO of LDC, the private equity part of Lloyds Banking Group, stepping down following 11 years in the role to concentrate on his own private interests including, particularly, Oxford United.

Darryl and I share the same personal and business style and have an identical approach to the strategies required for the ongoing success of Oxford United. We also have precisely the same ambitions for the club.

Discussions have been in process between the parties for over 12 months but accelerated
two months ago when the stadium development opportunities became time-critical.

Each of the Lenagan Family and Darryl Eales now has more than 30% of the shares of Oxford United Ltd but both with less than 50%.

The Football League has indicated formally no objection to the new shareholdings and acceptability of all persons under the Owners and Directors Test and hence this announcement is unconditional.

A new board of directors is now in place with Darryl taking up the position of chairman, Mark Ashton appointed as chief executive taking over responsibility for day-to-day management of the board’s existing strategy and Ian Lenagan taking Board responsibility for the Stadium Development project.

My two sons Simon and Adrian Lenagan step down from the board to concentrate on their own businesses having spent thousands of unpaid hours working on behalf of Oxford United. The board thanks them formally for their contributions to the club.

A change in personnel as a consequence of this new shareholding and management structure is the replacement of Gary Waddock by Michael Appleton since Mark Ashton wishes to have with him his own person as head coach, having worked with Michael Appleton previously.

We would like to thank Gary for his effort and contribution through the past months on behalf of Oxford United and to make it clear that this change does not in any way reflect on his performance or capability as head coach.

I believe strongly that this new shareholding structure with two major investors now involved is an an even stronger position for Oxford United than before and bodes well for the club’s future ambitions. I look forward to the start of the new season and the opportunity personally on behalf of the new board to focus on the Stadium Development opportunity.

Statement by new Chairman, Darryl Eales:

Ian Lenagan has explained fully and well the rationale behind my entry into Oxford United.

I would like to add that I have been impressed with everything I have seen at the club over the past months and I am delighted to be involved in conjunction with Ian Lenagan in driving Oxford United even faster along the already-defined strategy to achieve its ambitions.

I look forward to meeting many of the fans, staff and partners of the club in the immediate future.

A lot of people talk about ownership of a football club. I prefer to think of my involvement as that of a custodian of Oxford United with long-term intentions and ambitions which I share with the fans and with Ian.

Mark Ashton takes over all day-to-day activities of the club as chief executive from Monday. I know there has been some disquiet at the possible entry of new people into a settled and positive environment at Oxford United but be assured that we intend to continue in precisely the same way as before. Mark, in particular, is a highly-capable young man who has learned much from his experiences in running other clubs and I ask that he be supported fully and with enthusiasm by Oxford United fans.

Personally, I am so pleased to be involved with Oxford United directly in the management of a football club after years as an active football fan and I look forward to being a major contributor in a strong and successful future for Oxford United.

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