The chairman of Truro City Football Club has given evidence at a tribunal about a series of weekly newspapers he sold for £1.
The employment tribunal is looking into who is liable for paying money owed to 27 members of staff after the View From media series went bust.
The business had been acquired by Peter Masters, who is also the chairman of Truro City Football Club and the director of Cornwall Today magazine, in July 2017.
However the news publications, which covered the areas of Dorset, Devon and Somerset, closed in January and the staff were made redundant.
They claim they are all still awaiting pay in lieu of notice, redundancy money and arrears of pay.
Mr Masters, the sole shareholder at the time, then sold the business later that month for £1 to Duncan Williams, a media director at Vibe Marketing Group Ltd.
Giving evidence at the tribunal in Exeter, Mr Masters denied having known Mr Williams before the deal, despite a barrister presenting evidence his name and details had appeared on the View From website and blog in December 2017.
Peter Masters is the chairman of Truro City Football Club
Mr Masters said it had come as ‘a surprise’ when he was made aware of it at a later date, but said he understood Mr Williams had been interested in purchasing the titles back in July when he was the one to take it out of administration. Mr Masters confirmed he resigned as director when the deal was struck with Mr Williams.
He added staff had been on ‘garden leave’ from January 4, but barrister James Arnold, representing the claimants told how their account of events was they had been locked out of office and told to remove their belongings and were not required to work again.
The new owner, Mr Williams, who was not present at the tribunal, claims he only purchased the intellectual property rights for the brands.
The hearing is scheduled to last for three days but on Wednesday the judge will decide whether Mr Williams is personally responsible for the claims or if Vibe Marketing Group Ltd is.
However, the claimants are likely to have to wait until next year for another hearing to make their own representations of what is owed to them.
The court heard all the employees were dismissed when the titles they worked for ceased publication on January 4.
Noting the absence of Mr Williams, employment judge Nicholas Roper said: “He has chosen not to attend.”
Evidence was given to support Mr Williams's intention to continue the business.
Mr Williams runs independent news and marketing service the Poole Post. He is also a commercial development consultant with News Group Ltd and a director of Vibe Marketing.
Mr Williams launched a crowdfunding bid, with a target of £85,000, to revive the series of closed weekly newspapers.