Listening in to last week’s brilliant Roker Rapport Podcast with Stewart Donald, I couldn’t help but notice about one hour and seven minutes into proceedings that the Sunderland owner seemed to give a rather large hint that the club are still dealing with the fallout from Ellis Short’s disastrous spell in charge.
When discussing the potential of a “cash-flow hole” - which had been recently reported in certain national newspapers - Donald revealed that there were several other issues ongoing behind the scenes. The Ricky Alvarez court case was raised as a point in case, but the Sunderland owner suggested that there are other issues lingering from the Ellis Short era that are now plaguing the club:
Four or five other things, if you like, of a similar value (to the Alvarez case). There’s a new budget for contingencies on some of those, but the financial picture may end up looking a little worse than what we had hoped.
Donald then went on to reiterate that his group had conducted due diligence on the deal, though his language seemed to hint that perhaps something was amiss in the situation being presented to his team prior to the takeover:
I mean, you’ve got to remember that we did the financial due diligence in a couple of weeks. Ellis was very keen to offload, and, you know, we knew there was a cash-flow short hole of X - we went through as much of the detail as we could and that we were given. But, there’s always in a deal of this size some things that come out.
As the topic intensified, Donald began to choose his words very carefully, and it really felt like this was quite a serious issue. The owner was eager to note that Short was keen for the deal to proceed quickly and that issues often arise during complex transactions such as this one, yet there was something in Donald’s tone and structure that hinted that perhaps this could be a genuine worry.
Stewart did argue the fact that he firmly believed he and the club could manage the situation without the need for external debt; however, when Rapport host Connor Bromley pushed the owner for more information on the issues behind the scenes, Donald opened up.
Connor asked whether further court cases were active involving the club, and Donald responded by saying:
Sunderland did like a court case, you know... There were two other cases that, if you like. have materialised that, you know, might be one thing or another. There’s a cash-flow issues with the football club where you talk to Ellis and say, ‘you know in this scenario, that really should be there and this should be there.’ And that relies on him being sensible, so we’ve got to rely on post-dealer sensible arrangement with Ellis.
After suggesting that skeletons could well be lingering in Sunderland’s dark, deep annals, Donald then noted that these issues could well come to a total of £10-15 million of “additional bad news,” that “Stewart Donald and Sunderland should not pay.”
Again, after highlighting what appears to be a significant financial issues sitting before the club, Donald was once more keen to point out that he could finance that debt, and that Juan Sartori’s addition to the club’s ownership structure could also be an emergency option should the club need a helping hand.
But how big a miss for a League One side would that figure potentially be?
Although Short has left the club, it certainly seems like the former owner is haunting our dreams of a perfect divorce. Will his poor management skills as owner come back to bite the club under new Stewardship? We’ll find out soon enough.