QUEENSLAND’S National Rugby League is closely watching the ‘glitter strip’ as the Gold Coast Titans’ financial woes have led to a new high-profile resignation.
Founding chairman Paul Broughton resigned last night as the club staggered towards death row, saying he was ‘shattered’ after learning the true extent of debts.
The Titans organisation is said to be up to $35 million in debt, largely due to losses incurred by its property arm which built the Titans’ Centre of Excellence at Robina.
Broughton has publicly admitted to being part of a system that hasn’t worked and sickened by the financial scandal that engulfed the six-year-old club.
His resignation is a major body blow to the beleaguered club’s future and more devastating news has continued today, with the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Government deciding against investing in the Titans.
The PNG investment was touted as a financial lifeline for managing director Michael Searle, but the proposed $20 million partnership collapsed after the full extent of the Titans’ debt emerged.
Unless Searle can pull another rescue deal out of his hat, the Titans may be days away from financial ruin. The club’s property arm faces an April 20 court date to fight a wind-up application from a major creditor.
Two consortiums are reportedly circling the club, looking to obtain its National Rugby League licence should it be stripped from Searle who is the majority owner. Offers for the license are expected to be lodged soon with the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC).
It is understood Searle does not figure in the plans being formulated by either consortium.
Searle owns the intellectual property of the Titans name. A name change would be required for any new NRL license holder unless the new owners can negotiate the transfer of that property from Searle.
A club statement on Searle’s behalf yesterday dismissed the reports of a possible takeover as nothing more than ‘speculation’. The club says Searle and the Titans are working with the ARLC to get the club out of its current financial mess.
“The club is working through options to sell the Centre of Excellence and the football operation is running as business as usual,” says a Titans spokesman.
Independent auditors have found the football club is reportedly liable for $13.4 million of the property arm’s $35 million debt as it is listed as a guarantor.
Auditors from the ARLC are also assessing financial dealings of rugby league operations at the Titans, including recent lucrative contracts to lure Dave Taylor and Jamal Idris to the club.
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