clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Takeover talk: Wearside holds its breath as rumours abound that consortium to begin due diligence

Reports in the press suggest a German-led consortium are close to embarking on a formal process of due diligence pending a takeover of Sunderland AFC.

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Widespread reports and subsequent rumour abound this morning as the talk that Sunderland are in takeover discussions with a German-led consortium steps up a gear.

Building on reports in the Sun and the Times late last week that owner Ellis Short is in discussions with the group, the Northern Echo have reported that a formal process of due diligence may commence in the next few days.

The American billionaire who has wholly owned Sunderland since 2009 has engaged the services of Dr Keith Harris a financier and takeover advisor with considerable experience in football business investments and buy-outs.

Harris was previously Chairman of the Football League and director of Wembley National Stadium Ltd and has been a board member at Everton since 2016.

Dr Keith Harris - the man advising Ellis Short on selling Sunderland

Hailed as a 'Mr Fixit' in the world of football, the 64-year-old advised on Roman Abramovich's takeover at Chelsea, Randy Lerner's involvement with Aston Villa and Thaksin Shinawatra’s purchase of Manchester City. When Mike Ashley put Newcastle up for sale in 2008 he called on Harris as did Bill Kenwright when he was looking for a billionaire investor for Everton.

So this is Ellis Short being serious in finding a buyer for Sunderland after increasingly obvious signs the Missourian is desperate to end his association with the club relegated a mere month ago.

After arriving on Wearside with such optimism in 2009, the Short-era has increasingly been characterised by dire decision-making, awful recruitment, scandal and poor performance. With miracle survival runs in the Premier League masking much of the problems at the club, the 2017 relegation will be recalled as the final comeuppance for the last five years of increasing mismanagement.

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League
Short bought Sunderland from Drumaville in 2010
Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

The drop into the Championship has merely added another layer of trepidation to a weary fan base increasingly alarmed by the level of debt at a side which has still not appointed a manager to oversee an enormous squad rebuild this summer as we enter mid-June.

Talk of a takeover offers a glimmer of hope that a fresh approach will be ushered in to a club devoid of leadership, lacking funds for investment and with an already forlorn look right now for a team which should be bidding to make a swift return to the Premier League.

Sunderland v Southampton - Premier League
Metaphorical grey clouds have lingered over the Stadium of Light for the past few years
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

There have been reports of prospective new owners before at Sunderland of course. Hints of interest from groups in China and the Middle East have continued and Short is thought to have been close to agreeing a sale last year before getting cold feet over the intentions or integrity of the group behind the takeover bid on that occasion.

One stumbling block has always been the valuation that owner Short appears to hold for the club. £170m was widely circulated as the asking price last year but figures being quoted in the press at the moment put that as nearer £100m. But Sunderland AFC are a tangled web of finance, debt and asset so valuing the club is nigh on impossible for outsiders right now.

But there are suggestions that with the American increasingly set on getting out, he is willing to accept a reduced figure up front subject to add-ons and future installments, dependent for example on the club re-gaining its Premier League status.