SOUTHEND United chairman Ron Martin remortgaged his home to stop the football club going bust, the Echo can reveal.
Mr Martin, a property developer, borrowed £750,000 against his £1.6million fivebedroom home, in Benfleet Road, Benfleet, to help clear a £338,000 tax debt owed by the Blues and stop it being forced into administration.
The bailout, in summer 2010, is part of a total of about £13.5million of his own or borrowed money Mr Martin has ploughed into the football club to keep it afloat since he took over in 1999.
All or nothing? Ron Martin
He revealed the sheer scale of his investment as he reiterated his desire to get a new stadium built at Fossetts Farm, which would help the club be more self-sufficient.
Mr Martin said: “I have done that (supported the club) for a number of years.
“It is still the case because I can see what the future holds.”
His investment keeps the club going as, according to the latest published accounts up to July 2012, the club is effectively insolvent, but it continues as a “going concern” due to the support of Mr Martin’s main property company, Martin Dawn Plc, and Southend United’s parent company, South Eastern Leisure.
Remortgage: Ron's home in Benfleet Road
Mr Martin said through a network of 30 companies he has paid around £11million into the Blues over the past 15 years. He also helped pay off about £5million of the club’s debt when he took over in 1999.
He does not expect to ever recoup the cash.
He said: “It’s gone. It is a lot of money. No, I don’t suppose the fans know.
“I don’t blame them because the primary aim of fans is to see their team win, but the majority don’t look at the accounts or appreciate the degree of investment that has gone into this club to keep it afloat.
“May be they will understand when we have delivered a new stadium.”
Before the 2008 economic downturn, the Bank of Scotland was funding the new 22,000-seat stadium. When the bank pulled out, Mr Martin had to rely on support from development partner Sainsbury’s, which wants to build a supermarket at Roots Hall, and money from his own property development ventures.
Stadium dream: Plans for the Fossets Farm stadium
However, in 2010, Sainsbury’s capped its lending at £5.5million after HMRC tried to put the club into administration over an unpaid tax bill.
Mr Martin then had to take drastic action and on August 11, 2010, took out a loan with the Bank of Scotland against his detached family home to help clear the debt. Mr Martin told earlier this week how he hoped to start work on the new stadium in May.
Despite his investment in the Blues, Mr Martin has faced criticism over his personal finances.
However, the club boss has brushed off a series of county court judgments against him on being pre-occupied with getting the club to Fossetts Farm and for running 30 companies.
Solicitors, a neuro specialist, individuals and Anglian Water have all had to takeMrMartin to court to get him to pay bills.
He has been in and out of civil court with the sewage firm and still owes it around £600, according to the public register.
Back in the day: Roots Hall stadium
He has also dodged two attempts to bankrupt him since the 1990s, including a high-profile case last year when former club chief executive Tara Brady secured a repayment plan over a £150,000 debt.
But Mr Martin, who banks with specialist private wealth management company Coutts, said the judgments were not evidence he was no longer in a position to prop up the football club.
He said clearing invoices often had to take second place to negotiating over Fossetts Farm or company business and ignoring final reminders was an oversight that ended up being dealt with by PAs and secretaries.
After previously being quizzed about a number of outstanding judgments, Mr Martin got five of them paid. Two are outstanding.
He revealed he often has the same issue with unpaid parking or congestion charge fines.