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Explained: Why Sunderland's latest ownership developments could be so important for the club's future

You couldn't quite call it closure.

By Phil Smith
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 5:11 pm

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Stewart Donald still holds a 19% stake in Sunderland, while Juan Sartori is now more influential than ever after increasing his own shareholding to 30%.

Wednesday was not quite the end of the Madrox era, but for many reasons a significant step forward has been taken.

A month on from that exhilarating win at Wembley, it was hard not to wonder if there was a danger of an opportunity being lost amid the latest chapter in the club's long-running ownership saga.

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus is now the majority shareholder at Sunderland

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There was understandable unease over the apparent bid from 'The Fans Together' group to buy into the ownership group; fears that it might prevent the club from building on the feel-good factor Alex Neil and his squad had built.

So Louis-Dreyfus' intervention was important, confirming that he had finally become the club's majority shareholder just hours before the players began to filter back into the Academy of Light for pre-season.

Most significantly, he confirmed that there would be no further share transfers to a third-party buyer. In an instant, speculation around not just the cryptocurrency group 'TFT' but any other interested party was brought to a swift end. That offers both clarity and stability ahead of what is a vital five weeks as the club tries to build a squad capable of consolidating and progressing in the Championship.

Given that Juan Sartori has now very publicly aligned himself with Louis-Dreyfus, it now significantly streamlines the ownership.

Charlie Methven has departed entirely, and as a silent partner Donald's influence will be minimal.

Decisions on investment right across the football club should now be made quicker and more efficiently. Although the governance of the club may not change, many feel Louis-Dreyfus moving into clearer control was what the club needed to move forward.

Methven's departure also allows some element of closure from one of the club's acrimonious periods. The club's lowest ever league finish and all that entailed, the academy sales, humiliating cup exits and everything in between, were as much Donald's and Sartori's responsibility as his. Methven, though, was arguably the figure most closely associated with the complete breakdown of trust between club and supporters.

Though he has not sat on the board or held a direct role since late 2019, his regular appearance at away games earlier this season underline how persistently divisive his 5% stake would be.

As a consequence of the years of decline that even predate Madrox’s arrival, supporters recognise that this club is coming from a long, long way back and still has a long, long way to go to get to where it needs to be.

So optimism will be measured. Sartori remains an enigmatic figure, though at least this time his presence is being clearly being signposted as supportive to Louis-Dreyfus, rather than transformative for the club as a whole. Donald's presence, even from afar, will always raise eyebrows.

It may not quite represent the clean break many hoped for, but it feels nevertheless like a significant step in the right direction.

Having finally got over the line on the pitch, it now feels like the club is edging closer to the structure it needs to be competitive moving forward. To that end, this development could be every bit as significant as that Wembley win.