The man chosen as the next PFA chief executive has been involved in an investment product aimed at players which offers no legal protection if those paying into it lose their money.
Maheta Molango was selected as Gordon Taylor’s successor two weeks ago but it has hardly been a smooth process with the decision leading to objections from the unsuccessful candidates and the Professional Footballers’ Association calling in lawyers to check their recruitment process.
Now Sportsmail can reveal Molango is one of a four-man ‘management team’ behind an investment vehicle, 46th Minute, which aims to raise £128million to buy clubs in financial trouble. Its 18-page prospectus states ‘athletes’ are ideal investors — ‘uniquely positioned to use their abilities, reach and wealth’.
Incoming PFA chief Maheta Molango faces a storm after being involved in a risky investment scheme aimed at players
The product is legal but not regulated by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or any equivalent body overseas and would therefore offer no protection or means of legal redress through the Financial Ombudsman if it failed.
The PFA have had disastrous recent history of involvement in advising their members on investments. They stood accused of a conflict of interest last year when it emerged that the founder of one ‘wealth management’ firm the union were working with was a trustee of the union’s charity.
Scores of players have been bankrupted by poor investment advice when deciding how to plan for their future beyond football.
Molango told Sportsmail that 46th Minute was not registered with an investment industry regulator because ‘it’s only a project at the moment, nothing else’.
There is no legal protection for those involved who lose their money in the 46th Minute vehicle
Asked if footballers had been signed up to it, he said: ‘No, because it is a project which is very much still on paper, if anything.’
The investment vehicle’s prospectus states that it does already have stars interested.
Under the heading ‘Our Elite Athletes Network’, it says that 16 people who ‘play or played’ in the ‘top three football/basketball leagues’ are among its members as well as 22 who ‘played for their national teams’ and two who ‘raced in Formula One’.
But another of the scheme’s management team, the American businessman Jason Gardner, who has invested in Swansea City and co-owns Danish club FC Helsingor, said these stars were not paid-up investors. He told Sportsmail: ‘We had conversations with those guys. They said, “We like the idea. If it becomes real, we would like to become part of it”.’
Financial analysts, who have studied the proposal for Sportsmail, say that the star dust associated with sports people’s involvement could make the product more attractive to private equity investors, at a time when there are many distressed clubs looking to take on debt to finance cash flow.
Malongo said the scheme was ‘only a project’ at present and that no players were signed up
One leading London tax and investment firm said: ‘There is not much detail on anticipated returns.’
A North West-based firm said: ‘There are no disclaimers and warnings of the risks attached. The big risk is execution. What if the club you are investing in doesn’t get promoted?’ Asked if he would drop any future involvement with 46th Minute should his appointment as PFA chief executive be confirmed by the union’s management committee, Molango said: ‘First I need to be formally appointed as CEO of the PFA, which is not still done.
‘I am still very much a candidate and when this is completed I will decide what I do with the various things I was involved in.’
Molango did not want to speak on the record about the PFA chief executive role, ahead of his appointment being approved. One PFA member expressed concern about Molango’s involvement in an unregulated product.
The PFA, currently headed by Gordon Taylor, have a poor track record of advising players
He said: ‘Given the statistics regarding player bankruptcy and the challenges faced through unscrupulous agents and financial advisers, that is concerning.’
The document lays out initial plans to raise between €100m and €150m in the second half of 2020, closing the acquisition of a ‘first’ club in the first quarter of this year and plans to ‘continue with portfolio construction’ in the second half of this year.
The aim is to buy a La Liga club, then a Bundesliga side, followed by one in Serie A.
Molango and Gardner’s partners in the venture are Spanish financier Luis Garcia, who oversees the investment fund that has stakes in Lyon, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund, and the Spanish Olympic hockey player turned marketing executive Rodrigo Garza.
Malongo’s appointment has been controversial, with PFA candidates complaining about the selection process
The calibre of that quartet underlines how far Molango, 38, has come since his days as a journeyman footballer in England, turning out for Brighton, Lincoln, Oldham, Wrexham and Grays Athletic.
He graduated in law, joined the international law firm Baker McKenzie in Madrid, specialising in sport, and was chief executive of Real Mallorca by the age of 33.
After three largely successful years in that role, he became co-director of Fifa’s programme to provide a diploma in club management to executives.