The key questions fans deserve the answer to on Juan Sartori's Sunderland role and plans

Juan Sartori has remained the enigma at the heart of Madrox’s tenure as owners of Sunderland AFC.

Wednesday, 22nd July 2020, 10:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd July 2020, 10:06 am

He was presented to supporters as the wealthy, well-connected businessman who could take the club to the next level after the initial months of restructuring behind the scenes as the Black Cats adjusted to life in the third tier.

Yet two years on from his arrival, his interest looks to observers to have all but dwindled.

A political career in Uruguay has taken precedence, leaving supporters wondering why he became involved in the first place, what his intentions were then and are now.

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Sunderland fans with new director Juan Satori.

The Echo have collated some of the key questions surrounding Sartori and his involvement...

How much money has Juan Sartori invested into Sunderland AFC?

Documentation surfaced earlier this year that suggested Sartori had paid just £1 for his 20% stake in Madrox and as a result, Sunderland AFC.

This was in contrast to previous comments from fellow co-owners Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven.

Donald had said that Sartori had paid £3 million, while Methven went on to say that this figure was as a proportion of what had been paid to Ellis Short up until that point.

When asked by The Echo to explain this contradiction, Madrox said that Donald’s comments were accurate as Sartori had invested his funds as ‘director’s loans’.

Madrox have insisted that the owners have continued to pay money back into the club, both before and after the writing off of £20.5 million owed in the 2018/19 accounts, due to be published at the end of this month.

They have also said that Sartori has been part of this process, to the ‘same proportion as the other investors’.

In May, Madrox said that they paid the balance owed to the club down to around £11.5 million.

However, what is not clear is to what extent funds from the FPP group have been used in this process, and so Sartori’s own financial commitment is difficult to ascertain.

Fans still do not have clarity on what he initially paid, and what he has paid since.

It’s a key issue as clearly, the Uruguayan would be due a significant sum should the club be sold for Donald’s asking price of £37.6 million.

What is the current status of Sartori’s involvement in the running of Sunderland AFC?

Madrox said in May that Sartori ‘is fully committed and more involved than ever in the running of the club.’

This was greeted with significant scepticism as two years on, it is still not clear what Sartori has brought to the club, particularly from an operational perspective.

His arrival was used to underline Madrox’s claim of being liquid enough to sustain the club financially, while it was also said that the Uruguayan’s connections would be key from a footballing perspective (though it was also said that this was unlikely to be drawn on while the club was in League One).

Despite some energetic appearances at the Stadium of Light in the early weeks of the 2018 season, Sartori has been an increasingly peripheral figure as his political ambitions in Uruguay grew.

Yet Madrox have consistently assured supporters that his involvement would grow. This was said after the takeover talks with Mark Campbell collapsed, after the FPP takeover talks resulted in the Americans opting for a loan, and when Methven stood down from the board late last year.

Donald’s resignation leaves CEO Jim Rodwell as the key decision maker at the club on a day-to-day basis, with input from Donald’s associate Neil Fox, plus non-executive directors Tom Sloanes and David Jones.

Sartori remains a director but with the club up for sale, his contribution is as difficult to discern as it has been for most of his time on Wearside.

His apparent ambition has stood at curious adds with the regular takeover talks that have taken place, including those that took place before fans called for change.

Does it remain the case that he intends to relocate, as stated by Madrox?

In their most recent update, Madrox told The Echo that: “He has been delayed in a proposed move to London but Juan is expecting to spend more time in England and as a result will be more visible in the future once this happens.”

Sunderland have of course not been in action since then as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there has been no indication of Sartori relocating as his political career in Uruguay continues.

Is Sartori pursuing an interest in other clubs and is he doing this through Madrox?

In May, the President of Uruguayan second-division side IASA, who are based in Sartori’s home town of Montevideo, said that he had held talks with the senator’s advisers over a possible investment.

Just days previous, Sartori had stated his desire to establish a Uruguayan feeder club, with echoes of the initial claims in 2018 that the Black Cats academy could be a destination point for the country’s best young talent (which is yet to occur).

Sartori said that a partnership had not occurred due to a ‘lack of time’, but that he would ‘surely end up doing it’.

The context is both confusing and relevant, when Madrox told The Echo in May that they were pursuing ‘other ventures’.

This, crucially, has been used as part of the justification for saying that Madrox’s affairs are ‘confidential’, despite the fact that it’s sole asset currently is Sunderland AFC.

All of which has left supporters deeply sceptical of both Sartori and Madrox’s plans; one of many examples where the rhetoric has not matched up to the reality.

The Echo has approached Juan Sartori for comment on the questions above.