A group of local businessmen are in advanced talks to buy Southend United in a deal that could result in English actor Ray Winstone joining the club’s board. The Essex-based team were relegated to the National League in 2021, bringing an end to 101 years of continuous membership of the English Football League. Ron Martin has been Southend’s majority owner for the last 25 years but he put the club up for sale in March, a move that delighted most fans as his tenure has been an almost constant battle with the taxman and other creditors. Two weeks before Martin’s announcement, the club avoided liquidation by finally settling a late tax bill of almost £2million only for another winding-up petition to arrive two weeks later over more unpaid tax. That petition, which was joined by three other parties, including the club’s front-of-shirt sponsor, PG Site Services, was adjourned last week until July 12, giving Martin 56 days to either find another £275,000 or sell the club and let someone else settle the bill. If it is to be the latter, the favourites are a group led by Kristofer Tremaine and Simon Jackson, respectively the chief executive and chief financial officer of Kimura Capital, a London-based hedge fund that specialises in commodity markets. Six years after launching that business in 2013, the pair moved into sports, esports, media and marketing with the creation of Kimura Performance and a motorsport division called Kimura Racing. The connection with Winstone was forged last year when Tremaine joined the board of Integral Sports Management, an agency co-founded by Winstone and former broker Gary Pettit in 2019. The group, who are being advised by football finance veteran Laurie Pinto, have long-established links with Southend, a seaside resort on the north side of the Thames Estuary that was granted city status in 2021. For example, Kimura Capital sponsored a charity event at the club’s Roots Hall stadium last weekend and ex-Crystal Palace, Hull and Leicester manager Peter Taylor, one of the club’s most famous former players and managers, is involved with Kimura Performance. If their bid for Southend is successful, the Kimura group will become the new majority owners of the club, its training ground and the new stadium Martin has been trying to build for the duration of his time in charge. This proposed stadium is part of a longstanding plan to develop a large site on the edge of the city called Fossetts Farm. After several failed attempts to get schemes off the drawing board, Martin finally settled on an idea to build hundreds of other new homes at the site and Roots Hall. Planning permission for a 21,000-seat stadium was granted in 2020 but Martin then revised the plans when he ran into financial problems, and final approval has not yet been granted for a 16,000-seat stadium. The uncertainty over the planning permission is just one of the questions that must still be settled, as nobody will buy the club unless they know exactly what they are getting and when they might be getting it. If all goes well, Southend could move out of the much-loved but dilapidated Roots Hall in two years’ time. There will be some mixed feelings about that and the possibility of Winstone’s involvement with the club. On the one hand, the Sexy Beast star would certainly raise Southend United’s profile and be an ideal frontman for a Welcome to Wrexham-style documentary, which is one of the ideas the Kimura group have for the club. But, on the other hand, he is a well-known West Ham fan, which is not something many would loudly profess at Roots Hall. While the clubs have rarely been in the same division, Southend supporters have traditionally seen their east London neighbours as rivals. Speaking of rivals, there is at least one other group with Essex links that has been talking to Martin about buying the club but a rumoured approach from a North American group fronted by former NBA star and Vancouver Whitecaps co-owner Steve Nash has not materialised. The Kimura group declined to comment on the status of their talks as they have signed a non-disclosure agreement with Martin and his advisors, General Sports Worldwide. Subscribe to The Athletic for in-depth coverage of your favorite players, teams, leagues and clubs. Try a week on us. Based in North West England, Matt Slater is a senior football news reporter for The Athletic UK. Before that, he spent 16 years with the BBC and then three years as chief sports reporter for the UK/Ireland’s main news agency, PA. Follow Matt on Twitter @mjshrimper