All change as new brooms sweep in!

ORIENT could have a new manager and chairman in place before they play their next game at Tranmere Rovers on Saturday, writes TREVOR DAVIES. Barry Hearn, who has been at the helm for the last 14 years, is set to sell the club to a consortium of investors

ORIENT could have a new manager and chairman in place before they play their next game at Tranmere Rovers on Saturday, writes TREVOR DAVIES.

Barry Hearn, who has been at the helm for the last 14 years, is set to sell the club to a consortium of investors headed by David Beckham's agent Terry Byrne.

As the Recorder went to press yesterday (Wednesday), negotiations were still on-going, but it looks like a deal is close to being finalised and, when it happens, Byrne is set to take on the role of chairman.

The club are also close to naming a new manager following the departure of Martin Ling.


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It seems there are now just two names on the short-list following last week's first round of interviews and the duo were set to go through the final interview stages yesterday (Wednesday), with both Hearn and Byrne involved in the selection process.

It also seems certain that the takeover will include Matchroom Sport acquiring the leasehold interests of the stadium for the sum of six million pounds.

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The club would then lease back the ground from Matchroom Sport - although this proposal has angered some supporters.

It had looked as if Orient were set to make an annoucement last Friday when a press conference was called - but it was subsequently cancelled at the 11th hour - only adding to the speculation regarding the appointment of the new manager and the takeover.

Hearn admitted last weekend: "I have made no secret of the fact that I would be prepared to sell my ownership of this football club to any serious investors who had the interests of the club at heart and would be able to inject further funding to help take the club to the next level.

"Over recent weeks, talks have been ongoing with a consortium headed by Terry Byrne regarding this issue.

"These talks remain ongoing and it is hoped an announcement can be made soon regarding the future of the club's ownership."

It looks certain that the club will resolve both the takeover and the new managerial appointment at the same time, with Hearn adding: "In line with this would be an announcement regarding our football management set-up."

Caretaker boss Kevin Nugent has been in control for the last four games and would have taken charge of Tuesday night's clash against Leeds United, had it not been snowed off.

Nugent has steered O's to a win, a draw and two defeats and Saturday's reverse against Yeovil may have been his last, if a new manager is unveiled before the weekend.

A more contentious issue for supporters is the lease-back agreement of the ground and LOFT, the Leyton Orient Fans Trust, distributed leaflets before Saturday's game as they are seeking to halt the stadium sell-off.

LOFT are calling for a halt to the proposal, to allow reasonable time for both shareholders and supporters to clarify the effect of the sale on the long-term sustainability of the club.

LOFT's chairman, Doug Harper, said: "Leyton Orient is in a period of major uncertainty, and this proposal seriously calls into question the future of our football club.

"This is exactly why Supporters Trusts exist at football clubs up and down the country, and LOFT urges all O's supporters to join us if they agree with our standpoint. We're only as strong as the backing we get from fellow Orient fans."

Another concern expressed by Loft is that no details have been given regarding the long-term home for the club.

A letter has already been sent to all shareholders containing details of the offer from Matchroom Sport.

Although the sale price would be �6m, �3.4m of that would be used to clear Matchroom's loans to the club - the result of ongoing annual deficits - leaving Orient with just �2.6m.

In return, Matchroom would grant a 20-year lease to the club, which would be rent free for the first five years, cost �180,000 a year for the next five and the figure would be reviewed in 10 and 15 years.

Hearn believes it's a good deal for Orient and said: "The club would also benefit from a 50 per cent share of any profit in the sale of the ground during the lease term and the repayment of all its loans, thereby leaving Leyton Orient FC entirely debt free.

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