Failed Takeover Explained

Mark Campbell has broken his silence to explain why his takeover bid for SAFC failed during the close season. “I’ve always wanted to get involved with a football club,” admitted Campbell. “Football business management is something that I’ve always been passionate about and I was in my office in New York and I received a phone call from someone that I was working with on real estate in the UK. He just asked me a question - do you know anyone in the US who might want to buy a football club? I said ‘who’s for sale’ and he just listed off club after club - Aston Villa, Charlton, Bolton, Swansea, West Brom, and then he said Sunderland. When the name Sunderland Football Club comes out, it’s a massive club with a great support base and great facilities. I’d been there a few times to watch a few games and I said ‘are you sure Sunderland are for sale?’ I was recovering from surgery and while I was recovering I watched the Netflix documentary, and at the end of the programme it said new owners. I’m sat in my office counting with my fingers how many months ago it was when I watched it, and I was sat thinking ‘why are they looking to sell?’ So I said to him ‘if they’re looking to sell, I would be interested in that’. That was on the Thursday, and by Monday morning I was sitting down in Oxford with the owners. They [the owners] were very positive from the very early days,” he said. “The first discussions I had were with Neil Fox (SD’s business partner) who was absolutely brilliant. He was a really nice guy, really open and explained to me what the situation was with the club and what they wanted to do. Stewart Donald was going to stay as a shareholder as part of our deal. I wanted Stewart to stay. I’ve got a great relationship with Stewart and we get on really, really well. I wanted him to stay and I had to fight for that, but that was agreed. It was for a full takeover. There was a lot of talk about investment. It was not investment; it was a takeover. We would have become the majority shareholders of the club.”

So, after convincing SD to stay, why did the deal fall through? He said: “The question [we had] was ‘why are you looking to sell?’. We never got a definitive answer until further on down the line. We got given a set of accounts by the club and with those accounts we went away, gave them to our law firm and accountants and said ‘this is what we’ve got so far, we need to get to due diligence’. Within about four weeks we had heads of terms drawn up and we were coming towards the end of March. That’s when you start the financial due diligence, we had access to the data room and were able to start looking into the club’s accounts and the running of the club. We had the club valued and our price that we agreed to buy the club at the very start, when we first made the bid, dramatically changed as time went on,” he explained “There were certain components of the deal at the end that weren’t going to work for the club. It was irrelevant what we were going to do. I went to this club in March and basically moved to the city. I was there three or four times a week to try and get this done. You’ve got two people in the consortium who are massive Sunderland fans, we had a robust business plan that the likes of serious people in football were blown away by because they had never seen anything like it. Anyone can own a football club, but if you don’t run it right you’re going to go bust. For us, it came to a point at the end where we had to make a decision. We’ve had a number of other clubs approach us since we’ve lost this in the last ten days, which is when we said ‘we can’t do this, if we do this we’re going to bankrupt the club.’ I was putting in in excess of around £20million of my own money and there were other people looking to join our bid. But you get to a point where you have to take a step back. But if I got a phone call tomorrow that said ‘do you want to go back again?’ You can never say never, because you don’t know what’s around the corner. I was going to move from my apartment in New York to Sunderland, people thought we were mad. You can never say never though. I love the place, the people and I think the city is an unbelievable place.”

But just because Campbell pulled out doesn’t mean that other interested parties are not still looking to buy our club, so watch this space…