Q: What do you make of the apparent decision made by Stewart Donald and Juan Sartori to sell part of their stake in the club so soon after they’ve arrived? Do you feel it’s necessary?
Craig Davies says...
I’m a little undecided - unsure if I should get the pom-poms out and rehearse an accapella version of the Star Spangled Banner or worry about sinister, Machiavellian venture capitalists, out only to satisfy their own greed.
But some things have been clear from day one for me. Donald and Methven have been largely transparent about their long term financial muscle power, which has always seemed capped to the lower and less glamorous end of the championship - at best.
Donald has been looking for serious investors from day one and he hasn’t really hidden that. That much I get. I had always presumed that Juan Satori’s considerable fiscal influence would kick in at that stage. Now, that appears like a non starter, with Sartori reducing himself to a minor player, seemingly happy to flip 10% of his shares for a considerable increase.
That deflated me a little, but I do get it. But there are some aspects of this I can’t get my head around and it’s possibly why my radar of suspicion is beeping like a metal detector over a field of scrap iron.
I cannot understand why thus far, reasonably mysterious and faceless overseas investors are interested in the club? Not that the club isn’t valuable - it is to all of us. But I’m not talking about money per say, or value. I’m talking about motivation.
We’re fans and obviously would blindly finance the whole club if we could out of a loyalty burned into our DNA. But what is their motivation? Investors whose previous interest in football has been the mighty, infamous cash cow of Falkirk. About as random and left field as football investment gets - to novices like me at least.
What’s the end game there? More importantly what’s the end game here?
Yes, Donald has given them the green light, but he needs their cash, so he’s not likely to spit in their eye. Without being too paranoid, there must be a massive financial angle that owners must be able to manipulate here, that ordinary punters like me can’t see.
If you are moving to a different country or province and want to buy yourself a profile and friends in politics, such investments are logical. A classic example is Rybolovlev of Monaco notoriety.
Perhaps it’s a land grab by businessmen interested more in golf courses, hotels and shopping malls. But for others like Sartori, Ellis Short or now Mark Campbell, I haven’t figured it out yet.
And because I don’t fully understand their motives, don’t know their history, connection to football or what their end game is for our wonderful club, I can’t get overly excited.
But like all of us, I hope its for the glory, the love and the sheer madness of it all. If Donald stays on of course, as the day to day leader that would make me feel more optimist about their intentions. So it will be very interesting how this plays out from here.
Mark Carrick says...
I’m a little disappointed, if I’m being honest.
I thoroughly appreciate businessmen are in it to make money and for Sartori, selling half his stake, and Donald, selling the vast majority of his, these guys stand to make a substantial profit in a only a year as shareholders in Sunderland AFC.
However, the indication was these guys would be here for the long haul; a journey that may have taken us towards the Premier League before having to leave us in hands that could push us on. Donald has made no bones about the limitations and indicated that’s why Sartori was initially brought on-board.
Perhaps Juan’s political ambitions means he has had a change of focus. Perhaps Donald can’t cover the bases, long-term, without the Uruguayan’s investment. Maybe this lies behind the need for greater investment now.
However, I still feel somewhat deflated.
It felt like a breath of fresh air, being owned and managed by people who ‘got it’ at our club and had a plan to make us not on sustainable but successful. Changing the seats, joining the away end in matches, speaking openly on podcasts all left me positive that we were in the right hands and being rather counter-cultural in having owners who genuinely cared. Leaving now opens up a raft of questions.
Yes, Ellis Short chose the right people last year and we have to hope Stewart Donald is doing likewise. But going back to a majority holder that isn’t from this country, let alone this part of the country, worries me.
Is it a case of someone else looking to flip an investment this time next year, especially if promotion is secured? Are we getting into bed with a Blackpool, Bolton or Charlton owner that sees not the club, it’s history or its fans, but only its earning potential for a 74% stake? Where does the new direction leave the current manager and squad? We can’t keep lurching from one project to another - Sunderland AFC is crying out for stability.
And I guess that what disappoints me the most. I thought we had finally turned that corner of constant change, but it now appears that perhaps we have not.
Damian Brown says...
For me I don’t mind as I feel there’s an inevitability in this and that it’s probably for the best. Donald mentioned on the recent podcast that he risks losing investors forever if he doesn’t seize the opportunity to bring them in now, and if we’re being honest with ourselves the goal was always to make a profit and leave the club in a position where someone is willing to invest big money.
For all the good intentions and stellar work done by the current owners to strip away the debt and consolidate what assets we have left, knocking about down in the lower leagues is an increasingly likely possibility without serious a monetary injection. Donald and co aren’t the billionaires that are required to forge ahead into divisions that are simply saturated with hard cash. We can make our way to the Championship as we are but once we get there it was always going to require new investment.
It seems like they’re striking while the iron is hot, and while it may upset those among us that had determined the owners were in it for the long haul that bears a romanticism that I fear would hinder us more than anything else, were it to be followed to it’s logical conclusion.
I say bring it on. The more financial clout we have right now the better.