Jim O’Toole’s consortium chosen as preferred bidders for Worcester

The consortium of former Worcester chief executive Jim O’Toole has been chosen as the preferred bidders for the relegated Gallagher Premiership club.

Worcester collapsed into administration and were partially liquidated this month with HM Customs and Revenue pursuing unpaid tax in the region of £6million.

Steve Diamond, the former Worcester director of rugby, had launched a rival bid to buy the club through his Sixways Village consortium.

Worcester Warriors verge of administration
Worcester collapsed into administration and were partially liquidated this month (David Davies/PA)

“We are grateful to the Begbies Traynor team for their recognition of our consortium as the exclusive preferred buyer,” O’Toole and his business partner James Sandford, who are backed by American investment, said in a statement.

“As has always been, our focus remains on retaining an elite-level rugby club based on a viable long-term strategic business model at Sixways for the immediate benefit of the community of Worcestershire and beyond into the wider game of rugby.

“This is a positive and major step in the process. The process remains complex, needs complete confidentiality and will require our full attention until it runs its course.

“To this end, we will be making no further comment in the media or on social media until this exclusive formal process concludes.”

Worcester were relegated from the Gallagher Premiership and suspended from the Premiership Rugby Cup for the remainder of the 2022-23 season on October 6.

More than 20 players have since joined new clubs, some agreeing short-term contracts.

But England internationals Ollie Lawrence and Ted Hill have signed long-term deals at Bath, promising fly-half Fin Smith has joined Northampton, and Scotland wing Duhan van der Merwe has returned to Edinburgh.

Julie Palmer, one of the Warriors’ joint administrators, said: “I am pleased to announce that we have entered into a preferred bidder agreement with Atlas Worcester Warriors Rugby Club Limited to acquire the rugby club together with the stadium and surrounding land.

“The acquiring consortium represented by Jim O’Toole and James Sandford is fully committed to moving as quickly as possible to satisfy the criteria of the RFU and PRL that they are fully funded to take the club forward with the ambition of returning to the Premiership as soon as possible.

“This remains a complex transaction with pressing deadlines but I am hopeful that all stakeholders will move with the requisite speed to rescue this club which has excellent facilities, strong community ties and huge potential.

Steve Diamond File Photo
Former Worcester director of rugby Steve Diamond had launched a rival consortium bid for the relegated Gallagher Premiership club (David Davies/PA)

“I would also like to record my heartfelt thanks to the dedicated and hardworking staff who have helped us to stage a programme of non-rugby events in the coming weeks and provided invaluable assistance to the joint administrators.

“Details of the other parties involved in the consortium will be shared once the sale is concluded and no further comment will be made until that time.

“Separately I am pleased that Worcester Warrior women have been able to recommence playing and wish them the best for the remainder of the season.”

The Premiership was reduced to 11 clubs on Friday when Wasps’ relegation was confirmed by the Rugby Football Union.

Wasps, who went into administration on October 17, were hit by a winding-up order from HM Revenue and Customs for £2million in unpaid tax. They were also required to repay a £35m bond which had helped finance the club’s relocation to Coventry in 2014.