COLCHESTER United owner Robbie Cowling has bought out all of the club’s other shareholders.

The Jobserve chief said it made sense to force through the purchase of 35,000 remaining shares after fans voluntarily sold him more than 500,000 last year.

But Colchester MP Bob Russell insisted the move had sidelined fans and turned the club into the “private plaything of a millionaire”.

He is one of 110 shareholders whose own small shareholding has been bought against their wishes.

“The club is forcibly taking away the chance for ordinary fans to have a say in how it is run,” said the Lib Dem MP.

Mr Cowling promised to make a request to buy out shareholders when he purchased a controlling interest in the U’s in 2006.

Former owner Peter Heard had asked for an offer to be part of the takeover deal as he wanted ordinary fans to get the chance to cash in their chips.

After 565,193 shares were voluntarily sold for a total of £300,000, Mr Cowling’s holding company Aspire Media Group had such a big stake it gained the right under company law to buy the rest. It decided to take up the opportunity to cut costs by removing the need for copies of the club’s annual accounts to be printed and sent out to the shareholders.

Mr Cowling said: “The remaining shares are owned by a large number of small shareholders and this creates a significant cost to administer them, considering they now represent less than 0.004 per cent of the total shares in Colchester United.

“For this reason it makes perfect sense to buy the remaining shares and completely eliminate this cost. Aspire is serving the relevant notice on all outstanding shareholders.

“I understand some fans will be passionate about their shareholdings, no matter how few they hold and regardless as to whether they have any value, which they are unlikely to have once this offer passes.

“Of course I have to do what is best for the club and that is to buy the remaining shares.

“However, I want to respect the holders of those shares and still give them some involvement.

“I am considering ways of doing this and will issue a further statement in due course.”

Despite the modest financial value of the remaining shares, Mr Russell said he had already been contacted by constituents who were proud to display the evidence of their stake in the club in their home and would no longer be able to do so.

“It is the latest sign Colchester United is becoming increasingly remote from the supporters,” said the MP.

Although the club’s annual accounts will not be sent out as before, they will still be accessible as all companies have to publish their financial records via Companies House.

Shareholders will not have to contact the U’s as cheques will automatically be sent out in eight weeks.