Sunderland takeover talks have taken a positive turn and it could grant fans the wish they have been hoping for since Christmas. BBC Sport and Richard Mennear of the Sunderland Echo are reporting that current Black Cats owner Stewart Donald has selected his preferred bidder. A period of exclusivity is now underway.
Sunderland Takeover Could Happen Soon
Period of Exclusivity
Current Sunderland owner Stewart Donald has identified his preferred bidder. As yet, the person or consortium is unknown. However, according to the report in the Sunderland Echo, it is not energy drinks tycoon William Storey, who was heavily linked with the club recently. Neither is it Mark Campbell, who reportedly came close to striking a deal last summer.
Other interested parties of late are a consortium which includes form Sunderland left-back Michael Gray. American parties have had a tentative interest and Sammy Yu has also been linked.
The period of exclusivity will allow the preferred bidder to complete a deal should they provide proof of funds. These funds must include the asking price of £37.6 million wanted by Donald. They also must prove they have enough funds to run the club and take it forward.
Should the party complete the financial due diligence to complete a deal, Sunderland could have a new owner in place by the beginning of next season. However, fans should expect little in the way of updates for the foreseeable as a non-disclosure agreement is highly likely to be put in place.
Relations Between Owner and Fans Seemingly Irreparable
Sunderland’s long-suffering fans have endured a torrid time. Successive relegations meant the Black Cats dropped from the Premier League to League One. The future looked bright when Donald bought the club from American Ellis Short. However, failure to gain promotion and two of the clubs lowest ever league positions left many wanting a change.
As the club dropped to its lowest ever position over Christmas following a poor run of form, fans began demanding a change. Donald had stated previously that once fans wanted a change he would sell. Donald actively began searching for a buyer; however, with the season being suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, takeover talk almost came to a halt.
Since lockdown in England has begun to ease, news and rumours of potential buyers began to appear once more. Some questioned whether Stewart Donald was asking too much for the club or whether he actually wanted to sell.
After a recent heated meeting between a fans group and the owner, Donald stepped down as chairman. In reality, little had changed due to Donald still being the owner of the club. However, it appears there has been a positive turn of events.
New Owner for New Season?
With approximately six weeks to go before the new League One season, there is a chance new owners could be in place. Sunderland boss Phil Parkinson could do with the takeover being completed a lot sooner than later. The Black Cats are facing a third consecutive season in England’s third tier and Parkinson and the fans know that the squad needs strengthening.
Several players have left so far including goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin and Kyle Lafferty. Sunderland will need strengthening in several areas should they wish to push for automatic promotion. Parkinson will undoubtedly want to add to his striking options with shot-shy Will Grigg and Charlie Wyke looking unlikely to fire the club towards the Championship.
New Owner to Bring Back the Good Times?
Fans will be hoping that the new owner can help bring the good times back to the Stadium of Light. When Donald bought the club from Short two years ago, the negativity surrounding the club began to lift. Promotion at the first time of asking was required. Sunderland fell just short losing in the play-off final.
Last season was tough for everyone, the squad was not suitably strengthened and manager Jack Ross was replaced by Phil Parkinson. Results and performances were poor at best with the Black Cats dropping to a league position never seen before.
Sunderland could now be about to enter another new era. Should all go to plan and the currently unknown bidder be successful, the pressure will instantly be on for them to make a statement of intent.