Exclusive: FPP Sunderland group complete investment deal to 'take Sunderland to the next level'

FPP Sunderland have completed a deal to invest a ‘substantial sum’ into Stewart Donald’s ownership of Sunderland AFC.

Thursday, 31st October 2019, 6:24 pm

In an exclusive interview with the Echo, Executive Director Charlie Methven said that the deal would help take the club ‘to the next level’.

The FPP Sunderland group, who have been in talks with the club for an extended period, comprises American businessmen Glenn Fuhrman, John Phelan and Robert Platek. Michael Dell is also believed to be involved but in a passive role.

Those talks initially included the possibility of the quartet taking a controlling share in the club.

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Robert Platek and John Phelan at the Stadium of Light earlier this season

The group will not be on the shareholding register of the club as a result of this deal, but are believed to be investing a sum around the eight-figure mark.

It will be used to boost the club’s recruitment and academy structures, as well as the Stadium of Light and other infrastructure.

The investment will be made initially into the club’s holding company, Madrox Partners. Stewart Donald will remain the majority and controlling shareholder of that company.

FPP Sunderland are, Methven said, ‘investing in our management of the club’.

It leaves the current ownership structure of the club in place, with Methven holding 6%, Donald 74%, and Juan Sartori 20%.

Sartori has been a less visible and regular presence at the Stadium of Light in 2019 having launched his political career in Uruguay.

He has just this week been elected as the country’s youngest ever senator, but Methven said he is ‘very engaged’ and will be a more regular visitor in the coming weeks and months.

“Juan is in the first stages of his first political career in Uruguay, but he will here on a much more regular basis going forward,” Methven said.

“He, Stewart and I put a substantial extra chunk of money into the club before this investment a few weeks ago, he is very engaged in the future direction of the club.

“He’s speaking to us two to three times a week at the moment and I think people can expect to see him an awful lot more going forward.”

The deal brings to a close months of uncertainty at the club, with various investors coming forward at some stage for talks.

Methven said Sunderland would now be able to build for the future under Donald’s stewardship.

“The deal that we’ve signed is for FPP Sunderland to invest a very substantial sum into our management of the club,” he said.

“Really it’s to embark on phase two of the rebuild of Sunderland, having had a gruelling 18 months stripping everything back to ensure there’s no wastage anywhere.

“It’s now time to start building again. We’ve always been clear that would require a bit of investment, from our very early interviews and podcasts, and we said that it was no good suddenly looking for it when we needed it.

“We needed to be ahead of the game and the good thing about this is that it will enable us to do the things we know need to be done to take Sunderland to the next level.

“This is about the medium to long term things that need to be put in place for Sunderland to reach its potential,” he added.

“There’s a large scouting network now being put in place by Tony Coton, including substantial numbers of scouts in this country, Scandanavia and elsewhere.

“There’s going to be substantial investment into recruitment in the academy, and things that are hopefully going to be able to take the fan experience to the next level in terms of infrastructure and there’ll be an announcement in the near future on what that looks like.

“Basically, the investment will allow us to run the club in a measured, strategic way.

“It’s easy to underestimate how many clubs outside the Premier League are living hand-to-mouth and one month to the next, it makes it very difficult to plan strategically whereas this development enables us to plan and do things properly.”

Phelan, Platek and Fuhrman all attended games on Wearside as they weighed up their options and carried out extensive due diligence on the club.

They had for some time being looking into the possibility of investing in European football, identifying Sunderland as a club with significant potential for growth.

Their long-term plans past this initial investment remain to be seen but Methven says it is a ‘significant’ injection that gives the club ‘strategic certainty’.

“Our agreement is confidential and I wouldn’t want to speak for the investors on that [long-term plan], but obviously this is a very large sum of money for an investment outside the

Premier League and will enable the club to have strategic certainty for the next couple of years,” he said.

“It’s a very significant cash injection at any level outside of the Premier League.”

*Methven discusses the deal, how the money will be invested and recent changes at Sunderland AFC in more detail in tomorrow’s Echo