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Football: Pompey chief is forced out.

PORTSMOUTH chairman Martin Gregory last night left the Fratton Park club stunned by announcing he had resigned from his post and was quitting the board after death threats were received by him and his family.

Gregory, 45, has been the target of abuse from Portsmouth fans attempting to force him to to sell his 97 percent shareholding in the struggling First Division club.

The property developer, who took over the business empire when his father, Jim, died earlier this year, said he reached the decision to quit when his daughter was followed on an evening out and threatened by a Portsmouth supporter.

The club, in turmoil with debts estimated at pounds 5 million and the entire playing staff on the the transfer list, issued a brief statement last night confirming Gregory had resigned and would step down from the board.

His decision places the club's future in doubt, with Pompey promising to make a further announcement next week about who will take over.

Gregory, speaking from his Surrey home, said last night: "I've had enough. It's nothing to do with business. It is a decision I've taken on a personal

level.

"I've had death threats, my family have been threatened and my daughter has been followed and threatened. There comes a stage when you have to make a decision.

"This has placed me in a position I don't want to be in and I have decided to walk away. I'm not in a position to say exactly what will happen to the club in the future. A further announcement will be made on Monday next week." Gregory had been holding talks with rock star Brian Howe and American property billionaire Vince Wolanin about selling his family's 97 per cent shareholding, but the talks collapsed 10 days ago.

He resumed control of the club in January this year from former England coach Terry Venables, who was chairman for 11 months.

Following the death of Gregory's father, the family estate have been seeking to reclaim around pounds 3.4m which had been given to the club in loans.

At last weekend's match with Grimsby, fans launched a pitch invasion to protest against Gregory's chairmanship.

Chants including: "We hate Gregory" and "Ten men went to kill, went to kill a Gregory" echoed around Fratton Park and fans also held a protest outside his home.

Portsmouth manager Alan Ball said: "It is a shock but it's been coming for a while."

Fellow director Terry Brady said: "It is a surprise but not a major one. It's more sudden than I thought it would be."

TV personality Fred Dinenage resigned from the board earlier this week, saying he could no longer continue in his role as a non- executive director because of the way the club was being run.

Ball had all respons-ibility for player transfers removed from his grasp last week when Gregory appointed showbiz agent Athole Still to buy and sell players without consulting the manager.

Gregory's final task as chairman was to sell top scorer John Aloisi to Coventry for pounds 650,000 - a week after manager Ball had agreed a fee of pounds 1.5m with Sky Blues boss Gordon Strachan.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 19, 1998
Words:530
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