As Sunderland fans wait patiently to discover who will become the new face of the club after two torrid seasons under current owner Stewart Donald, one man who has been highly vocal on Twitter regarding his wish to buy the club is William Storey.
Storey, CEO of Rich Energy, has promised “significant investment” but many fans are still wondering who he is and whether his record is business is credible. Within his Twitter bio, Storey claims to be “Founder Rich Energy. Entrepreneur, Mathematician, Boxing Manager, Ex-Formula One Title sponsor”. A short glance at Wikipedia would inform you that the 41-year-old was also a former professional footballer with QPR reserves, a professional gambler, and a tobacco farmer in Zimbabwe - quite the CV.
Roker Report spoke to Sunderland fan and Radio Le Mans Midweek Motorsport show host John Hindhaugh to discover more information on Storey’s character and his previous controversies within the motorsport industry.
#Sunderland need new investment & an ambitious plan for success. With the right personnel & funding the club can begin a renaissance. A fresh impetus needed. The group I have assembled includes life long Sunderland supporters. This passion is key. #RokerRoar #Football #Legends pic.twitter.com/GTQUOQC7WK— William Storey (@richenergyceo) July 27, 2020
MC: First and foremost, the most important factor of a football club owner is their net worth. Research into Storey’s company Rich Energy showed they only had £581 within their account - do you believe Storey would possess the finance to effectively fund Sunderland?
JH: The ongoing problem with William Storey is and has been his inability it would seem to follow through on financial promises.
When we looked at the issues that he was having with Haas back in 2017, he had less than £1000 pounds listed against any of the companies and there’s numerous different companies registered that have Rich Energy connections.
You will recall at that time that the sponsorship agreement with the American Formula One team Haas was terminated well before the end of its life, quite simply it would seem that the business model for his alleged drinks brands isn’t working.
On a personal as well as a corporate level it would appear he does not have the finance to effectively fund Sunderland or indeed anything else, although he has of course said in his Twitter statement that he’s talking with blue chip companies, but that in fairness is something we’ve heard before.
MC: Whilst researching William Storey’s background, a repeat theme appears to be him struggling to provide evidence to back up his statements...
JH: The problem with this individual is his continued inability to back up his social media presence with anything even remotely concrete, never mind concrete - even a sandcastle would be better quite frankly than what he has been able to turn up in the past.
He is an interesting character who clearly loves the spotlight of attention being shone upon him and I’m not sure he’s got credibility with anybody at the moment, a few minutes on a search engine never mind anything approaching due diligence would show his issues in the past - he just hasn’t been able to deliver!
MC: In 2019 there was a fiasco surrounding Rich Energy’s sponsorship with Formula One team Haas. The company cancelled the sponsorship via Twitter blaming Haas’ poor performance - what effect did Storey’s actions have on the Haas team overall?
JH: The whole Haas Formula One farrago was a nightmare. It was a nightmare for Haas, it was exactly the wrong kind of publicity for them. There were all kinds of finger pointing from the Rich Energy side of things, a potential takeover “allegedly” of their social major accounts by a quote “rogue individual”.
It just was messy and for a team that were really trying hard to establish themselves in a country where Formula One is not a prevalent part of motorsports, it wasn’t good news for Haas.
Whether that has had a knock-on effect going forward it would be difficult to say, but look at Haas during F1 this weekend and next weekend at Silverstone, for the rest of this season there’s no sponsorship on that car.
They had to remove the previous branding from Rich Energy halfway through the season, there was all kinds of upset about that as re-branding costs money.
MC: Storey attempted to buy the Formula One team Force India when they were in administration - has he had any other failed takeover dealings in motorsport?
JH: There was an attempt, according to William Storey, to buy Force India as it was then now Racing Point. That was an odd one because depending on who you talk to Force India at the time would have said that they had never had any serious approach and this goes back to what I was saying earlier on about Storey.
He is pretty adequately named really because he does not seem to be able to come up with credible explanations for some of the things that he puts out on social media and certainly they are not being backed up by the people that he’s talking about having dealings with.
He has also been linked with motorcycle racing in the UK and motorcycle teams. He’s got a recent personal sponsorship and I used that word advisedly with a young driver in the British touring car championship.
I think his credibility has just taken a knock, and to be quite honest he has become a bit of a laughing stock in motorsport circles.
MC: Despite claiming to sponsor numerous sports teams in the racing industry and West Ham’s Women’s football team, the company received mass scrutiny as to whether the energy drink physically existed - how did Storey handle that situation?
JH: The big problem that we found when looking at Rich Energy and William Storey back in 2017 at the height of the Haas issues was whether there was actually any product.
Some of our listeners to Midweek Motorsport did tell us that they had managed to buy some, whether it was individual cans from one or two retailers or online buying 36-can small pallets of the drink.
There seems to be some questioning, again I am being very diplomatic in picking my words carefully here, as to whether there was a business.
There was a number of high profile photographs, press releases and social media posts alleging to be from sparkling new offices somewhere, we had some of our well connected and eagle eyed listeners point out that that was a meeting room in a hotel in Europe and absolutely not any offices – this added extraordinary background.
When you consider that Storey was comparing himself favourably to the biggest names in the energy drinks market, including Red Bull and the massive empire that they have built up, the fact that it is been almost impossible to go down to a major retailer - not just in the UK but anywhere in the world - and buy a can of this stuff is a bit of an odd one, isn’t it?
MC: Rich Energy were also brought to court for breaching copyright law regarding their logo and faced legal action over their advertising slogan - what were the implications of those cases on Storey and the company?
JH: Midweek Motorsport followed the court case from Whyte Bikes and their action against William Storey and Rich Energy about the Antlers logo.
The judges’ comments were scathing on what Storey had said. They felt that Storey did not answer questions, he and some of the people who he brought as witnesses were not credible and that Storey himself was prone particularly going off into making long rambling statements.
Rich Energy lost the case, Whyte Bikes were absolutely vindicated. However, going back to weather the product even actually existed, Storey was somewhat slippery about how many cans of product they had made and sold saying at one stage it was 10,000,000 or something like that.
There was a fine and court costs awarded against them (£35,416). It was handed down within that judgement that all remaining cans, whether filled or empty, had to be turned back to Whyte Bikes for disposal and as far as we can find out that has still not happened. Storey may still be in breach of that order.
6 top flight league titles (50% more than @NUFC) 2 x winners of FA Cup & winners of charity shield. A giant of English football & the pride of the North East with some of the most dedicated fans in the game #RokerRoar #Sunderland #Football #PremierLeague #Legends @SunderlandAFC pic.twitter.com/GWWCVh5i8H— William Storey (@richenergyceo) July 29, 2020
MC: Storey claims to have been an ex-youth-footballer at Queens Park Rangers, why do you think he has an interest in owning a football club?
JH: I have no background on William Storey’s actual or alleged sporting prowess or what other interests he has, other than his absolute interest in attracting publicity for himself and whatever brand it has been.
At the height of all the problems, he allegedly gave up the brand Rich Energy and started a new company which then got handed off to someone else which then got handed off to something else called Lightning Volt.
That disappeared without trace and under a very odd set of circumstances which includes a guy called Mr Kell, who was principally the head of an un-licenced bureau at an agency for debt restructuring.
I don’t think it matters if it is a football club, I don’t think that it matters that it’s Sunderland in this context, I just think that it matters that William Storey is getting some publicity.
MC: During an interview with The Sun, Storey claimed he would spend £50m on transfer and was aiming to sign four players from the Premier League - do you think he is perhaps just using Sunderland to gain publicity for himself?
JH: If you want to judge how serious Mr Storey is on doing anything with Sunderland football club, look at the tweet he put out with the shirt sponsorship using Rich Energy, still by the way with a version of the antler logo which may still be a little bit too close for comfort with the Whyte Bikes logo, he did not use the right strip manufacturer and not four days before that a new principle partner (Great Annual Savings) for Sunderland AFC had been announced with a multi-year deal.
It is extraordinary to me that this has got the kind of traction that it already has. In some ways I despair at the level of coverage it has got and the lack of any sort of fact checking that has gone on with this individual.
The description of William Storey as a soft drinks magnate is a very interesting one isn’t it, that’s right out of his own publicity I would say when any fact checking would have proved what background this chap has got.
MC: He claims to have “significant funding from blue-chip backers” supporting his ownership bid - does Storey have links or has worked previously with any high-profile businessmen who you are aware of?
JH: This comes back to the previous point doesn’t it that he can claim anything he wants, he claims to have put in a formal bid for Sunderland.
Storey is not naming anybody and talking about a non-disclosure agreement, well you know if he was under a non-disclosure agreement surely that would be not talking about it at all, never mind tweeting about it on his on his social media?
I cannot stress highly enough how unreliable Mr Storey is in terms of anything he says and that’s not just me saying that, go back and look at the judgement against him for the Whyte Bikes logo infringement and read what the judge had to say.
MC: Overall, how would you describe Storey’s reputation in business, and do you believe he would be credible option to own Sunderland A.F.C?
JH: Definitely not!
If I had a car for sale and William Storey rang me up to say that he could raise £5000 to buy it and he was going to send me the money as soon as he got the keys to the car I don’t think I would believe him for that.
He has zero credibility in his dealings throughout motorsport he has proved himself to be somewhat deficient in providing truthful answers to pretty fundamental questions, whether that has been from the press, whether that has been from people like ourselves with him and some of his associates or alleged associates when we’ve rung them up to ask them for comments... and we’ve had the phone slammed down without anybody wanting talk about their association with Mr Storey at all.
I think what we can say and probably the only thing that we can say of any certainty about Mr Storey is that he has been at somewhat reluctant to deliver on his promises. He continues to court publicity with - let’s be honest - somewhat outrageous claims at any point that he feels he can get major traction.
I just despair that anybody would take this seriously and if I’m proved to be wrong and the board at Sunderland AFC start talking to him, then I fear even more. I did think it could not get any worse for my beloved Sunderland football club, if this was to go any further I fear that that would be potentially the beginning of the end for the club, that’s how serious this is!