South Manchester based Paul Robert Widdrington Elliott was born February 1970. . He does not always include his middle names on documents, and sometimes spells his surname with only one T at the end. He is known to have been a director of 23 UK companies since 1993, mainly concerning property management, but including hospitality sector and vehicle services (eg. car trade broker). He has resigned from 11 companies, dissolved 7, and is still active as sole director in 4. They are Astute Estates Ltd (06989810), Wilmslow Road Developments Limited (10199010), 22A, B & C Derby Road Management Co Ltd (11302588), all based in Manchester, and Lotharingia Limited (05656621), based in Brookenby, Lincolnshire.
We have developed extensive dossiers on Elliott’s activities (and those of his associates) at Brookenby, but at the current time we do not believe those activities have any direct connection to his involvement with Charlton Athletic or any other football club. Therefore, we are not including those dossiers on this website. They can, however, be put at the disposal of the relevant authorities on request.
Elliott has undergone 2 bankruptcies, in 2008 & 2011, at which time he was using his mobile phone number as contact for selling second-hand kitchen units on “Gumtree” at £100 each. No evidence has been found to support the assertion that Elliott is “worth £12M”, made on 17 September 2020 through his barrister Paul Chaisty during the Court of Appeal case Lex Dominus v. Panorama Magic.
Elliott’s business methods
Elliott’s nature and ethics may be judged by his actions in March 2005, in respect of St Elphin’s School at Darley Dale, a private school for girls he had jointly bought 9 months earlier. Arriving by helicopter with his business partner, Kevin Paul Burke, he is said to have attempted to close the school at a few hours’ notice, requiring the building to be vacated the same day, with apparently no care for where the boarding pupils were to sleep that night (some had parents who were abroad). School staff were able to negotiate a 3-day extension. The 14-acre site was then sold within weeks and redeveloped as a £19m retirement complex. A subsequent employment tribunal found the ownership had “illegally dismissed” school staff, due to lack of notice
Secondly, there is a 2018 Google review of Elliott’s letting business, Astute Estates, which suggests unscrupulous conduct. In brief: A client called Elle claimed Astute Estates gave her a fraudulent tenancy, illegally subletting a property to her, knowing they were going to court for it to be repossessed, and failing to place her deposit in a protection scheme. She contacted the actual landlord, recovered her deposit, and obtained a legal tenancy through the lawful landlord. The review further claimed that Astute Estates also assumed that because she was a student at the time she would be away over Christmas and started letting themselves in until she opened the door.
Elliott & Charlton Athletic
Elliott’s interest in Charlton Athletic first became public on 8 June 2020 when the Daily Mail and the Sun reported that the rumoured takeover bid was being led by Manchester-based businessman Paul Elliott. This was apparently confirmed on the official site on 10 June by the headline “East Street Investments, the company that owns Charlton Athletic, has been taken over by a consortium led by businessman Paul Elliott.” It later became clear that this was misleading; the take-over of Charlton Athletic was conditional on the consortium passing the EFL tests, which did not happen. By the time (November 2020) the Courts ruled Elliott had a claim to ownership of East Street Investments, ESI was an empty shell, having already sold Charlton Athletic FC to Thomas Sandgaard.
On 3 Jul 2020, Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust (CAST) published Elliott’s replies to questions they sent him earlier that week, still under the misapprehension that he was Charlton’s new owner. First Elliott explained his motivation for buying CAFC: “I was made aware of this opportunity through Chris Farnell, who I have known for a long time and who knew I was thinking about investing in football. At the end of May, there were no offers on the table for the club and no funds forthcoming from any other parties – the club did not have enough money to pay the bills. After scrutinising the information I had available I thought I could see a long-term future in an investment in the club.” And in answer to a later question; “I’ve known Chris [Farnell] for a long time and he has had a variety of high-profile clients within the sports industry.” Farnell (who in June was still solicitor for both the owner Nimer and the club, and was club lawyer until early August) later confirmed his participation, telling a reporter that Elliott was a businessman he had known for some time.
CAST also asked about the involvement of Mohammed El Khashasy (who had recently been seen at a match) in CAFC and ESI. Elliott’s answer was: “Mohammed is a member of the consortium. He is someone that both Chris Farnell and I have known for some time.” It is a matter of record at Companies House that Farnell and el Kashashy set up the company Staunch Partners Ltd together on 20 November 2019, but it is unknown why or when they first met.
Three weeks later, a statement from Elliott was published on the official site, saying: “We are still awaiting EFL approval of the change in control of the club.” This rather begged the question why, as only a potential buyer, he had access to the official site for statements. It appeared that at this stage Farnell, as club lawyer, was effectively in charge of such day-to-day decisions.
Elliott was also disposing of expensive club assets (2 nearly new top-specification Range Rovers) which he did not own. By 7 August, when both cars were seen parked outside IPS Law’s office in Hale, one had been agreed for sale by Elliott to Dave Jones and another had been gifted by Elliott to Chris Farnell, as Jones and Farnell apparently told those attempting to recover the cars a few days later.
Journalist Benjy Nurick’s Twitter thread covering the story:
It was not until 18 November that it was announced by Sandgaard that all of the infamous Range Rovers and a Mercedes, which together had a value of £700k in January 2020, had been repossessed. The one Elliott had gifted to Farnell was to be raffled to fans. According to informed sources close to the issue, the Mail report is wrong to state that there were 7 Range Rovers. We believe 5 were used by people involved with ESI, and a sixth used by Lee Bowyer, presumably as part of the new contract he was offered by Southall. A 7th car, a Mercedes GLE, was briefly used by Sean McHugh, the finance director. This scenario would be correct for a total value of £700k mentioned by Thomas Sandgaard.
Benjy Nurick pieced together the events of the final months of ESI, including detail of the Range Rovers which came to symbolise the chaos, in this post for Medium.com
On 7 August 2020 the EFL announced they had declined three individuals’ applications. EFL also wrote to Matt Pennycook MP (letter published by CAST) to say that those who failed the ODT should be removed from certain roles at the club within 14 days (subject to appeal. It was rapidly established that the three disqualified individuals were Elliott, Farnell, and Andre Mihail. Farnell and A. Mihail resigned as directors of ESI on 10 Aug and CASTrust reported on 19 Aug, “Lots happening again. It seems Elliott and Farnell are appealingEFL OADT after all, as current decision blocks them from future involvement at any club #cafc” . Farnell eventually won his appeal (announced 28 October), but the outcome of Elliott’s appeal is unknown.
Strong rumours started circulating that Nimer had interest from another prospective buyer, but fans hoping this would see the end of Elliott’s ownership bid were soon disappointed, as Elliott made clear to the BBC on 17 August. Elliott was seeking an injunction to prevent Nimer’s Panorama Magic selling ESI (which in turn owned Charlton Athletic FC) to anyone other than him, and his company Lex Dominus which he had recently taken over from Farnell. Within days, Sandgaard’s name was appearing in the press as the rival buyer.
The initial hearing of the injunction case, Lex Dominus v. Panorama Magic, was heard virtually in the Manchester Civil Court in front of Judge Pearce on 1 September 2020. Several interesting facts emerged, including that the price agreed between Elliott and Nimer for CAFC was £1 – which Elliott never got round to paying, although he did claim to have put more than £500k into the club’s running costs. He repeated this claim in an open letter to fans, published 3 September and met with widespread derision. When the defence barrister tried to introduce into court the argument that any delay in selling ESI would cause commercial harm to CAFC, Elliott’s barrister countered that the case was about ESI, and that facts concerning CAFC (ESI’s only asset) were not relevant. This proved to be crucial because, although the injunction preventing Panorama Magic selling ESI was subsequently granted in the Court of Appeal on 17 September 2020, it did not prevent Thomas Sandgaard buying CAFC from ESI on 25 September.
A lengthy interview with Thomas Sandgaard was published 2 October 2020 in which he made the interesting statement: “Since December or January no money has been put into the club. It was basically running with money from the EFL and some sponsorship money.” This seemed at odds with Elliott’s claim to have put £500k+ into the club. This mystery has not been publicly explained but, since Elliott had achieved the near-impossible feat of failing the EFL O&D Test, fans speculated whether he was prevented under EFL rules from injecting funds in the normal way, and had instead put it through the books as “sponsorship”?
Panorama Magic (Nimer) did not offer a defence when the case disputing the ownership of ESI came to trial in November, so by default the verdict went to Lex Dominus (Elliott). On 12 November, Elliott reappeared, with a legal letter claiming ownership not only of East Street Investments, but also of Charlton Athletic FC. This was disputed by Sandgaard, who on 17 November said there was “no merit” to Elliott’s claim to own CAFC.
On 27 November 2020 Elliott sold Lex Dominus to Cardiff dental accountant Craig Raymond Freeman, and has subsequently adopted a low profile. It is understood Freeman has been present in the background since (at least) summer 2020, and is known to Farnell.