West Brom in shareholders talks over £3.7million Jeremy Peace loan

Albion have held talks with their minority shareholders about commissioning a review into a loan the club made to former owner Jeremy Peace.

The Hawthorns.
The Hawthorns.

Shareholders For Albion (S4A), which represents the majority of small shareholders who own 12 per cent of the club, have long called for an independent investigation into the loan which was made back in 2014.

Talks between the club and S4A regarding the review remain ongoing.

But the group has got closer to achieving its goal after holding talks with Albion chief executive Xu Ke – who is known as Ken.

Peace borrowed £3.7million from the club into his own company – WBA Holdings – back in 2014. But that debt was transferred to current owner Guochuan Lai when the Chinese businessman took over the club in 2016.

The Express & Star revealed back in January the interest for that loan has hit the £1million mark – meaning the Baggies are now owed in the region of £4.7million.

A statement from S4A sent to its members says the organisation is in talks with Ken with the aim of the club commissioning an ‘independent investigation into all the circumstances surrounding and leading up to the making of the loan.’

The resolution also has the aim of ‘establishing whether or not each director at the club complied fully with their respective fiduciary obligations in relation to the loan.’

S4A recently appointed David Baker and Leigh Kent as chairman and vice-chairman of the organisation. And it is understood they and S4A committee colleagues have continued to work with Ken to improve the relationship between the club and the minority shareholders – with S4A now holding regular talks with Ken.

S4A vice-chairman Leigh Kent said: “The relationship has clearly improved in recent months.

“We have open and constructive dialogue with Ken on many key issues relating to Albion, as we seek to work together to achieve what is best for the club. We appreciate Ken’s efforts in this regard.

“An example of this is Ken agreeing to hold our General Meeting at The Hawthorns on July 8, rather than in London as had originally been arranged.”

It has previously been claimed by S4A that Peace may have used the loan from the club to WBA Holdings to assist a bid he had made, three months earlier, to purchase shares in WBA Group, the club’s parent company.

Peace increased his stake in WBA Group from around 65 per cent to 88 per cent in 2014. Two years later he sold the club to Lai for around £200m.

Using the loan to increase his own shareholding is something Peace has always strenuously denied. The ex-chairman has also always maintained the loan was “competitively advantageous” to the club.

The Express & Star asked Peace for a comment on a potential review but received no response.

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