Charlie Methven gives update on Sunderland sale and expected timeframe for deal
Charlie Methven says the Sunderland ownership remain keen to conclude a deal to sell the club before the summer.
The former Executive Director, who stood down from his role on the board late last year, retains a 6% stake in the club and is therefore involved in the process.
Donald publicly confirmed his intention to pursue a buyer after a number of fans called for change.
The club twice came close to changing hands last year, first when real estate businessman Mark Campbell undertook extensive due diligence on Wearside in the summer.
Those talks did not come to a resolution and the club then held talks over a potential sale to the FPP group.
The American consortium ultimately decided to inject £10 million into the club, secured against the club and its assets.
That loan will have to be settled as part of any deal that would see a new party take over the club.
Methven claimed in an interview with BBC Newcastle that there is significant interest, and that the process of identifying a preferred bidder has now begun.
“We've been really blown by away by the level of interest in buying the club,” he said.
“From really good people as well.
“There have been some challenging times in the last few months and we've felt that pain as much as anyone else but nonetheless, the bottom line is before we came along, the club was on the market for two years and there weren't any takers at any price.
“Pretty much within a week of Stewart this time saying Sunderland is up for sale, we had a queue at our door of very credible people.
“We're now just going through the process of talking to people about what their plans for the club would be, because obviously it's very important that the best possible people come to the club.
“We really hope to conclude that process as soon as possible because for the club's sake, the new ownership needs to be in place to plan for the summer.
“There are decisions that need to be made about players out of contract, about investment in the infrastructure, all sorts of decisions that need to be made.
“The sooner the change can happen, the better.”
Methven was interviewed regarding controversial remarks he is alleged to have made at a meeting with the Sunderland supporter’s collective in November last year.
The minutes for the meeting were not agreed by all parties attending, and thus have not been published in the public domain.
However, The Times recently reported that in the meeting, Methven ‘suggested that people in the south would not be questioning such a deal [with FPP] because of a better understanding of business. The minutes report that he went as far as to suggest that this was because there were “less entrepreneurs” in the North East.’
Methven apologised for that remark, saying it was an ‘off-the-cuff riposte’.
Additional sections of the draft minutes have been shared on social media subsequently, and Methven was this morning pressed on remarks he is alleged to have made about Sunderland fans.
He said he could not comment on the individual remarks, but again apologised for having ‘pushed back too far’.
“It's a meeting we have about four times a year at Sunderland,” he said.
“They're private meetings, the intention being so that everyone can speak their mind.
“In mid-November, we weren't on a great run of form, it was a heated meeting.
“It took about two hours and I had an hour of being assailed on various points because football is a passionate game.
“I probably pushed back in a couple of places too far.”
He went on to add: “I can't comment very closely on what was said in the meeting.
“I was personally exasperated at the idea that people investing £10 million into Sunderland could be in any way viewed in a negative way.
“I was so exasperated I pushed back in slightly intemperate terms, I apologised at the time and I apologise again for it now.
“It wasn't meant to become public but I apologise if anyone has taken the words to apply to them.”
Sunderland distanced themselves from the remarks, with Stewart Donald convening a further meeting with the groups.
Those minutes are publicly available, and stated that the Chairman was ‘unhappy with some of the content and answers contained within the draft minutes, which he felt did not reflect the club’s viewpoint.’
In a statement released to the The Times after their initial report, they said: “It goes without saying that any such views are not representative of our chairman and Sunderland AFC as a whole.
“It is clear from comments the chairman has made publicly that he is hugely appreciative of and truly grateful for the tremendous support given to the club by the Sunderland fans, especially in recent challenging times.”