Goals Soccer Centres, the struggling five-a-side football pitch operator backed by the retail billionaire Mike Ashley, has appointed advisers to look for a possible buyer, as discussions continue with tax authorities over an unpaid VAT bill.
In a statement on Tuesday, Goals said it was engaging Deloitte to work alongside its current advisers and lenders in assessing its future corporate options.
Last month the company appointed forensic accountants to examine its finances, including how it recognised revenues, after it revealed it had misdeclared its VAT bill over several years, leaving it with a potential £12m liability.
Goals had a market value of about £20.5m when shares were suspended in March after the revelation. It had £29m of debt at the end of 2018.
The options under consideration by Deloitte are thought to include a sale of the company. Goals said its board could make a move before it settles its tax bill, with talks ongoing with Revenue & Customs as well as lenders including Bank of Scotland and BDO, its auditor.
Goals has struggled in recent years, losing £1.1m in the first half of 2018, although it said last month sales continued to be strong. The company employs 700 people across 45 UK sites and four in Los Angeles.
Trading in its shares, which are listed on London’s junior Aim market, will not resume until the audit and tax bill settlement have been completed, Goals said, meaning the company’s directors are likely to face investors at its annual meeting on 28 June while shares remain suspended.
Goals is also struggling with turnover of its senior leadership. In May the chief executive, Andy Anson, was appointed as head of the British Olympic Association after just over a year in the job. He is expected to remain at Goals until November.
On Tuesday the company announced the appointment of its second interim chief financial officer this year. Mike McGill will replace Martin Johnson, who started the role in January. Johnson will leave at the end of July.
Sports Direct, of which Mike Ashley is the majority shareholder and chief executive, owns 18.9% of Goals.
Ashley’s company, which first invested in Goals in 2015, has considered bids for a number of other struggling businesses in the past year. Sports Direct did not respond to a request for comment.
Other major shareholders include the Mayfair-headquartered investment houses Harwood Capital and JO Hambro Capital Management, and the Swiss private bank Lombard Odier.
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