Walsall takeover: Owner Jeff Bonser sells up after 28 years
Jeff Bonser's 28-year reign as Walsall's owner has come to an end with fellow director Leigh Pomlett becoming the club's majority shareholder and chairman.
Walsall-born Pomlett has taken over after acquiring 76 per cent of the shares in the club.
Alongside Jeff's departure, his brother Robert Bonser has also stepped down as a director.
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Bonser's time in charge of the Saddlers has been a frustrating one for supporters - primarily due to the businessman owning both Walsall Football Club and the Banks's Stadium as separate entities.
That has meant each year the club has had to pay rent to play at the stadium – with that money going into a pension pot of which Jeff and Robert are beneficiaries.
In Pomlett's deal to buy the club however, the two parties have negotiated an ‘Option to Purchase' the freehold to reunite it with the club.
Jeff joined the club as a director in 1988 before becoming major shareholder in June 1991 and chairman in September of the same year.
During his time at the helm, he has overseen the development and subsequent redevelopments of the Banks’s Stadium, the acquisition of the club’s first ever training ground and the most successful period in the club’s history including a first trip to Wembley in 2015.
"I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time,” he said.
'Honour and a privilege'
“I’m a Walsall fan who grew up watching the Saddlers from the Hillary Street End at Fellows Park. To have been a custodian/director for over 30 years has been an honour and a privilege.
“I will continue to be a supporter. I am looking forward to spending more time with my wife Karen, who has played a major role in the success we have experienced during our time together at the Club.
“I would like to thank all of the players and managers I have worked with for some amazing memories that will live with me always, I would like to thank the supporters for everything they have done and continue to do for the club; the staff for their hard work and loyalty over many, many years.
“I will never forget, and will always be thankful to my wife Karen, brother Rob, Barrie Blower, Roy Whalley, Richard Tisdale, Clive Welch, Peter Gilman, Nigel Bond, Stefan Gamble, Daniel Mole, and Leigh Pomlett for their support over many years.
"They have played an important role here at Walsall Football Club. The past 30 years would not have been achievable without the support they have given to both the club and me.”
Walsall's new owner
Walsall-born Leigh is well known at the Banks’s Stadium having joined the club’s Board of Directors in 2010.
A Walsall supporter since childhood, he attended Blue Coat School during his formative years before graduating in business studies and beginning a career in the logistics industry.
He was Operations Director for BRS before moving on to Exel Logistics where he became President of their Automotive division based in the USA followed by a return to Europe as the CEO for Europe.
Following an acquisition he then became the CEO for DHL in Mainland Europe before moving on to CEVA Logistics as European President based in both Amsterdam and Zurich.
In 2015, Leigh was appointed Executive Director of CEVA and became President of the Freight Transport Association in 2016. After 40 years in the industry, Leigh, who is married to Colette and has three children – James, Ben and Melissa – will now look to spend more time focussing on Club matters.
“This is an exciting new chapter,” Leigh explained.
“I have been involved with the club at board level for the best part of a decade and have been a supporter for over 50 years.
“I have been fortunate in my career to have occupied a number of high profile, demanding positions.
"This has meant that I haven’t always been able to dedicate the time I wanted at the Football Club but now I plan to do just that.
“This deal sees me take over as Major Shareholder and Chairman of Walsall Football Club but, just as importantly to me and the Club, Jeff and I have agreed a deal that will see the Club reunited with the freehold in due course.
“There is a platform here to move this club forward. My takeover of the club has been ongoing for a number of months, which has allowed me to work alongside my fellow Directors in making a number of strategic changes and appointments that have come to fruition.
“I firmly believe that, on the football side of the club we have made some excellent appointments and that Darrell and his team are the right men to take this club forward. Having sat on the interview panel for both Darrel and Miguel Llera (Academy Manager) I am confident that the club is in good hands.
“I will continue to work alongside CEO Stefan Gamble and Club Secretary Daniel Mole, as we have done in the weeks and months leading up to this moment, as we review all aspects of the club in order to give us the best possible opportunity to be successful both on and off the field.
“It is vital that we build strong relationships with our supporters if we are to grow and prosper. I’m looking forward to a bright future for everyone connected to Walsall Football Club.”