Football: MP & Silva's Singapore office in provisional liquidation following London HQ's insolvency

MP & Silva has witnessed its London headquarters declared insolvent by the Britain's High Court of Justice, and its Singapore office is now set to follow on the same path.
MP & Silva has witnessed its London headquarters declared insolvent by the Britain's High Court of Justice, and its Singapore office is now set to follow on the same path.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The media agency that gave the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) its biggest-ever partnership deal - a $25 million, six-year exclusive rights agreement - in 2015, is set to wind up, with doubts now hanging over the matter of recovering some $3 million in unpaid rights fees.

MP & Silva (MPS) has witnessed its London headquarters declared insolvent by Britain's High Court of Justice, and its Singapore office is now set to follow on the same path.

On Nov 19, PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC) Goh Thien Phong and Chan Kheng Tek were appointed as provisional liquidators of MPS after the company decided that existing liabilities meant that it was unable to continue doing business.

The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority's (Acra) website lists MPS' status as "in liquidation - creditors' voluntary winding up".

MPS' accounts have been frozen, its staff contracts terminated, and all its physical assets auctioned off for some $22,000. A visit to its Singapore headquarters at Infinite Studios, just off Portsdown Avenue on Friday, confirmed the fact: The MPS name on the wall was all that remained in what was an empty office.

A meeting for MPS' creditors was held on Dec 12 at PwC's offices, with the company's full statement of accounts presented. The Straits Times understands that representatives of the FAS were present at the meeting, in a bid to recover monies from MPS.

A former MPS employee who was present revealed that creditors were informed that not a single shareholder of the company turned up at an extraordinary general meeting scheduled earlier that day.

"We had to act in the best interests of the company as well as its creditors. We couldn't continue doing business - and paying salaries - when the company was pretty much stuck in a state where it couldn't really do business," he said, on condition of anonymity.

 

"It was inevitable that one of our creditors would file for liquidation like it happened in the UK."

MPS was founded in 2004 by Italian businessmen Riccardo Silva and Andrea Radrizzani, the owner of English Championship side Leeds United. Under their leadership, it became the biggest player in the global sports media rights market, holding the broadcast rights to major competitions such as the top English, German and Italian leagues, and Formula One.

The pair sold a 65 per cent stake to Chinese companies Everbright Securities and Beijing Baofeng Technology for US$1 billion (S$1.38 billion) two years ago.

Problems started to surface soon after.

MPS reportedly failed to make payments to several other creditors, including the English Premier League, Italian Serie A, and German Bundesliga.

On Dec 1, The Times of London reported that PwC was seeking a High Court order to appoint it as provisional liquidator in order to prevent a "scramble" for €4.32 million (S$6.75 million) in the bank accounts of MPS' Irish subsidiary, which reportedly owes €55.3 million to creditors.

Across the Causeway, MPS' 15-year, RM1.2 billion (S$395 million) deal with the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), also signed in 2015, was been terminated and the matter is now under arbitration.

Its Singapore office also faced issues.

Sources revealed that MPS' group president and chief executive Seamus O'Brien, who joined only in January, left the organisation in August.

He was followed out the door by Wu Swee Sin, MPS' Asia-Pacific managing director, along with several other management-level staff, leaving what sources reveal was a skeleton crew of junior staff numbering fewer than 10.

The remaining staff had their hands tied because of the company's legal issues and are understood to have conducted little to no business over the last five months.

ST understands that remaining employees had their contracts terminated in mid-November without any guarantees of being fully paid for the one-month notice required before the termination of contracts. Staff were asked by liquidators to submit proof of what the company still owes to them, and have already provided the required documentation.

Staff are usually the first creditors paid when a company undergoes liquidation, but that can only happen after liquidators - in this case PwC - receive a court order to liquidate.