£40m is just a drop in the ocean for Sir John

Remember that rather peculiar 2009 fly-on-the-wall documentary
about Sir John Madejski?
Events over the weekend caused me to revisit it.

On Saturday Sir John announced that he has found the requisite billionaire and is selling a 51% stake in his beloved Reading FC to a rich Russian for some £40m. In my mind’s
eye I have an image of Sir John in the £5m mansion featured in the TV programme,
in a room filled with spinning plates on sticks. Each plate carries an enormous
pile of money. Something like £90m on the Goodhead plate, £20m on the Sackville
Properties plate, £40m on the Reading FC plate, £27m on Clearview Traffic
(remember this is the company that he cites as being his favourite). The
Sackville Developments (Reading) plate, and £25m, already lies on the floor in

The sale last year of Malaysian Autotrader for £18m, and now of Reading FC would appear to mark the last of Sir John’s assets that are readily saleable. He’s sold a bunch of artworks and classic cars too. It seems to me that the plates are wobbling.

Last Friday someone in the UK won £41m on the Euromillions lottery. To most people that would be a life-changing amount of money that would take some spending. For Sir John, it would be a drop in his ocean of liabilities.

Sir John will be 71 in a few months. It would be understandable if he felt it was time to retire and put his feet up. The problem is he has a lot of onerous liabilities to tidy up before he can do that. His two daughters have seen their potential inheritance dwindle dramatically.

I’m fascinated to see how he uses the Russian money.

Will he use it to extract himself from one or more of his loss-making businesses, or will he throw even more money at them?