The somewhat muted response to the reports that Charlie Methven is on the verge of completing a £10m takeover is not surprising. We may be clamouring for confirmation of the ownership situation but first, the news is not official and second, we really have no idea if we should be breaking out the champers or getting the inflatable pigs back out of the loft. The involvement of Methven is in itself no cause for celebration and we are getting warnings aplenty from Sunderland fans. But a chairman doesn’t have to be popular and I’d suggest it all boils down to the nature and attitude/ambitions of the supposed US investors believed to be providing the cash. (As ever I’m not ITK, so none of this is based on anything more than public information.)
In a nutshell, assuming it is confirmed that Methven is heading a takeover backed by investors, and whether or not Thomas Sandgaard retains a minority stake, we need to know whether the backers are a disparate bunch contributing (in football terms) modest amounts, looking to make a decent return in a short space of time (say 18 months), or seriously wealthy people ready to step up their involvement in the event of promotion to the Championship. Just what have they been sold and how deep are their pockets?
The Sunderland warnings suggest the new owners would attempt a repeat of what was tried (unsuccessfully) there: a quick dash for promotion and if that is achieved selling the club on, letting a new owner of a second-flight outfit, one good season away from the promised land, deal with matters such as The Valley. Let’s face it, in essence it isn’t far removed from the goals of the previous chancers, the spivs (Slater/Jimenez). They did choose Sir Chris to lead the charge, helped him to create a team which blew the league away (although there was little if any actual net money spent on players) and got us back into the Championship, where for a little while we outperformed (before the money ran out).
So there can be commonality of interest even if the owners are thinking short-term. However, of course there are also pitfalls. Sunderland fans warn of their academy having been asset-stripped to help generate funds; would the same apply to us? How would the new investors behave if we don’t get promoted? And when it comes to selling the club on, will they care who it is to if the price is right (ie would we be wide open for another Duchatelet)?
Right now we surely simply have to reserve judgement. New owners hell-bent on getting us promoted is in itself a desirable development. If we hear that the new investors intend to hang around after reaching the Championship and have the money ready to commit to help make us competitive in the second-flight, I for one will be breaking out if not the champers a decent bottle of Mercurey for the weekend. But they are big ‘ifs’, so for now is stays in the racks.