Meet the man who wants to transform Oldham Athletic and reinvigorate the city using Bitcoin
An Oldham Athletic fan leads a group of potential investors looking to buy the club and turn the town’s fortunes using the power of Bitcoin.
Chris Lees, 60, grew up in Oldham and attended his first Latics game at Boundary Park aged four. After leaving town and pursuing a business career in various sectors in Spain, the United States and Africa, Lees launched an attempt to buy the faltering hometown club from controversial owner Abdallah Lemsagam.
Since buying the club in 2018, Lemsagam has overseen relegation and a steady decline at the bottom of League Two. Various off-field scandals, ten managerial changes and now the very real threat of non-league relegation have brought Oldham fans to breaking point. During this season, they launched a series of disruptive boycotts and protests in an attempt to force Lemsagam to sell.
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In return, Lemsagam attempted to ban three fans for “fostering dislike” of the club, until a nationwide backlash forced him to reverse his decision. Shortly after, he issued a statement accepting that the club would be better off under new ownership as he signaled his intention to sell the Latics.
Lemsagam have since rehired club legend John Sheridan as head coach in a bid to perform another miracle and save Oldham from what would be disastrous relegation. They were eight points behind safety when he took over, and are now just two points behind with one game less after a run of three wins and four draws in eight games.
This season’s decline has prompted Lees to assemble a group of investors interested in buying the club, whose plans were announced by the Oldham Times on Friday. Lees has given various interviews to promote his interest, with the most notable aspect of his detailed seven-year plan being the ambition to make Oldham the first ‘Bitcoin Standard’ club in the Football League, with the aim of rolling out 10% of balance sheet in Bitcoin within three years.
Speaking to MEN Sport, Lees explained what this means for any skeptical Latics fans.
“If you don’t know anything about it, you don’t need to know anything about it,” he said. “It won’t change your experience at the club.
“It will change the experience of running the club and become a solid and profitable entity in the future. Don’t think about ‘I don’t understand about Bitcoin’. Regardless, it has nothing to do with the how the club will operate in terms of the experience of supporters and the wider community interacting with the club. I have to talk about this because it is key to everything.
“Bitcoin is an asset, fully regulated like real estate or bonds or stocks and stocks would be. There is a business model using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, institutional lending and borrowing. We are there at that level. Any funding that comes into Oldham Athletic would be legal tender, in pounds sterling, but the source of the funds will come from that industry and the groups that I control within that industry.
“We want to put 10% of our balance sheet in bitcoin. The advantage is that if we put money in the bank it devalues and earns no return, we get nothing for putting it there. Money on the balance sheet is not good for your business.
“A lot of companies have Bitcoin on their balance sheet, even Tesla did. When Elon Musk does stuff like that, people have to listen. He’s the richest man in the world, he sends people into the world. space, what does he know he has bitcoin on his balance sheet.
“If you do that, you can lend that to institutions, which is what banks do with your money. We won’t do that, we’ll use that money for a return. That money won’t just evaporate into thin air, it will not devalue in the medium term. Bitcoin is volatile, but in the medium to long term it is a deflationary risk.
“Over the last ten years, Bitcoin has accumulated an average of 10-11% per year. So if Oldham put £250,000 on its balance sheet in 2012, it would now have £2.2 billion. It would be the biggest club rich of the world Or if they left £250,000 in the bank, that would be worth, what, £255,000 today Even if bitcoin is slowing down and only compounding 100% per year, the value of a bitcoin by 2030 is £1 million.
So while Lees says the Bitcoin model won’t directly affect Latics fans, he says it will be crucial to his potential bid as his group intends to run the club differently than others.
He explained, “Using the space I’m in in terms of cryptocurrency, we could do a bit of a different angle that hasn’t been done before.
“If you walk into a club with a few million dollars and you do what’s been done before, then you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. You’ll cover the cracks and then they’ll come back. That’s what happens. in football. Coming in with a few million pounds is not an answer. If that was the only option on the table, I’m not interested, I would never do this.
“You throw money away, I’d rather give it to someone else. Developing that idea to define the bigger picture around the club, it started to make sense. Maybe we can all rethink and start from scratch, building on sound business principles.
“A lot of great professional Blue-Chips that I have dealt with. There are a lot of people who want to get into football and find the right clubs. But football is very profitable, there are a lot of companies looking for to enter on the ground floor which can bring a lot to the party.”
Lees’ plan involved making the club profitable as soon as possible, trying to secure ownership of Boundary Park and the club under the same umbrella, and potentially redeveloping the ground in future years.
He also intends to use his knowledge of cryptocurrency to promote the club internationally, as well as use the city’s location just eight miles from Manchester to his advantage.
“I remember as a kid going to Tommyfield Market and it was buzzing there,” he recalled.
“I was there a few weeks ago before the Bradford game on a Saturday afternoon. I hadn’t been there for so long and it was sorry. I was in Reading and you look at their Madejski stadium and everything started performing there and it attracted companies and businesses to Reading.
“Now the number of industrial parks, flats, flats, because of the proximity to London. It’s about 30 miles, Oldham is only eight miles from Manchester, where all this money goes Manchester will get more expensive, more people come there, so people want to live in cheaper places, why don’t you go to Oldham?
“We want to attract new industries and sell them on the fact that it’s close to Manchester. That’s important, and that’s why the club can be a focal point for everything. There has to be a focal point.
“Salford Quays is like that because of United, development at City is because of the club. Even Liverpool, people will come and that’s what we can do for Oldham. It takes a long time, it could take 20 years , but someone has to get the ball rolling. You can’t let it die, people leave.
Lees says his representatives have contacted Oldham since December, but have yet to hear back. Contacted by the Manchester Evening News, Oldham Athletic would not comment on the club’s stance on a possible sale, but did note that Lees had met chief executive Steve Brown during Oldham’s League Two game with Carlisle on Sunday.
The Oldham Athletic Supporter’s Foundation, which has a 3 per cent stake in the club, told MEN: “The OASF board plan to meet Mr Lees to discuss his plans in more detail and discuss his plans. assess their viability for Oldham’s future Athletic.
“We have had discussions with three other interested parties at different stages and we would like to ensure that any buyer has the best interests of the club at heart. We understand that the club are also in talks with several parties, and we have asked an update on their current position, and we will update our members as we are able to do so.
As Lees awaits a response from Oldham, he says he will continue to discuss his plans with fans and reassure them of his plans for the club and the use of bitcoin which are central to these proposals.
“It’s a big vision, it matters to me because I’m from there and I don’t want to see this place die,” he said. “I got to 60, maybe I looked back at life and thought there must be a way to do something. Maybe I’m able to change things .
“Others will come, we have some really interesting massive companies that need an office here, we’ll give them a base here. It’s so exciting. There’s huge potential to renew and reinvigorate the city. It takes be a reason, a focal point. Something is happening, something exciting.
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