Football Federation Australia have approved a change of ownership for the A-League's Wellington Phoenix, after debt-stricken property tycoon Terry Serepisos relinquished the licence.
Serepisos, who reportedly has debts of more than $NZ200 million ($AU158 million) handed the Phoenix back to the FFA.
They have given the licence to a new ownership consortium of Wellington-based businessmen headed by investment banker Rob Morrison. Their arrival will be a relief to the FFA who could ill-afford to lose another club from the 10-team league with the new season kicking off next month.
In 2007, Serepisos took control of the NZ Knights, and shifted the franchise from Auckland to Wellington and changed their name, adopting the Phoenix brand.
"I feel very proud to have created this football club from scratch and I have poured all of my heart and energy into it, but I have come to the conclusion that it is time to hand the licence back to FFA," Serepisos said. "This is not an easy decision but I feel it is the right decision in the best interests of the club, New Zealand football and especially the Phoenix fans."
FFA chief executive officer Ben Buckley thanked Serepisos for "massive contribution" to the A-League and New Zealand football.
"Terry has been a fantastic founding owner of the Wellington Phoenix Football Club and without him the Club and New Zealand football would not be in such a fantastic position" Buckley said.
"While we have been supportive of every effort for Terry to find a long-term solution, this is a selfless decision by Terry and will ensure Ricki Herbert and his players can continue their preparations for the upcoming 2011-12 season without distractions."
He welcomed the new consortium to the league and said he had no doubt they would ensure Wellington Phoenix prospered in future years.
"Having businessmen of the calibre of Rob and his team ready to invest in the Club is a great testament to the standing and reputation of the Hyundai A-League and its future growth prospects," Buckley said.