The director of a company accused of misappropriating millions of pounds in public money, intended for the redevelopment of Northampton Town’s Sixfields stadium has been banned from being involved in the running of any company for 10 years.
The money had been paid to the club in 2013 and 2014 as a loan by the local authority, Northampton borough council. Howard Grossman, 57, the sole director of 1st Land Ltd, which was contracted by Northampton Town’s owner at the time, David Cardoza, to oversee a £10.25m development at Sixfields, caused £5.6m to be paid out to “various parties”, including £1.5m to himself and his family, the Insolvency Service said.
Grossman admitted his company made that payment, and £2.65m in loans to an unnamed “third party”, after 1st Land received at least £6m of the council money from the club to fund the stadium development. Grossman, accepting the 10-year disqualification from acting as a director or in the management of companies, also admitted failing to keep proper accounting records or handing them over to the company’s administrators, so that the precise nature of the payments could not be definitively established.
In a statement announcing the disqualification, Sue MacLeod, chief investigator for the Insolvency Service, said:
“We have been able to secure a substantial ban for Howard Grossman and if he breaches his disqualification, he risks being sent to prison.
“Howard Grossman, like all directors, had specific duties as a company director but he blatantly disregarded them. The company’s insufficiencies when it came to record keeping means that we are unable to determine the exact nature of payments worth millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, who along with supporters of the football club are the real victims here.”
1st Land was put into administration in January 2015 by the building company, Buckingham. It was originally contracted for an £8m redevelopment of the East Stand, then dramatically downscaled the plans, but eventually downed tools with £1.9m unpaid to it by 1st Land.
The Insolvency Service statement said Grossman had admitted that 1st Land paid the £2.65m out to a third party in loans, £600,652 to connected companies, and £1.5m in dividend payments “to himself … and in some instances to his family members on his behalf”.
Police first executed a warrant to search the club in November 2015 after the council had stated publicly, then made a formal complaint, that its loan money was missing but the promised development, including the new East Stand, had not been carried out. The club itself fell into financial difficulties at that time and its bank account was frozen, and shortly afterwards Cardoza announced he had sold the club to a businessman, Kelvin Thomas. He still owns the club, in partnership with David Bower.
Northamptonshire police are continuing a “nationwide” investigation, the Insolvency Service said, “into the missing Northampton borough council loan money … to recover public funds”.