Sunderland AFC takeover: Everything we know so far about the American investors - including Michael Dell - deal and next steps

An American investment group including tech magnate Michael Dell is close to taking a controlling share at Sunderland AFC.

Friday, 23rd August 2019, 6:16 pm

Here, we run through what we know so far and what the next steps are...

Who are the investors?

Glenn Fuhrman, John Phelan and Robert Platek are the main prospective buyers, with tech magnate Michael Dell the fourth investor, though he will be a passive, minority shareholder.

Sign up to our Sunderland AFC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

John Phelan and Glenn Fuhrman

Dell has consistently been measured as one of the richest men in the world, with his net worth estimated by Forbes to be 31.8 billion US dollars.

He remains CEO of Dell Technologies, the company he founded.

Much of his fortune rests in MSD Partners LP, the investment firm he set up in 1998 to manage his assets.

The group has a wide-ranging portfolio, and have made a foray into the sporting world. It was a prominent part of deals to buy out UFC and baseball side Miami Marlins.

All three of the other investors have a prominent role in this company, though it is important to stress that at this stage it is not known whether this deal would be through MSD Partners LP or a separate entity.

The Times reported on Friday that money will be injected ‘in a personal capacity’.

Glenn Fuhrman is co-founder and co-managing partner of MSD Partners LP, as is John Plehan.

Robert Platek is a partner, having joined the company in 2002.

Is the deal done, what is it and who will have what role?

The deal is not yet done but talks are advanced and have been very positive to date.

The prospective owners would also have to be cleared by the EFL, a process with no specific time frame.

Sunderland hope to get the deal done in the near future but Stewart Donald has consistently stressed that there is no immediate need for extra finance.

The terms and the subsequent shares each will hold is also not clear as the relevant parties continue work on getting the deal over the line.

However, it is understood that Phelan, Fuhrman and Platek would be active members of the club board.

Dell will be a less active investor.

The four will have a controlling share of the club.

Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven are expected to stay as directors and have a central role in running the club, as they have done since purchasing the club last April.

What does it mean in the short term and long term?

In an interview with A Love Supreme, shortly after Mark Campbell’s proposed deal fell through, Charlie Methven spelled out what the club are looking for from investment in the club.

“There are two different types of football clubs – ones that are living hand to mouth and others who are able to act strategically and are able to do the things they should do to grow because they have the right financial support to do that,” he said.

“A lot of that is cash flow - it’s to do with the ability to say, OK, I can put in £3m now and I might get it back later on, but I've got that cash now and it's the right thing for the club now.

“Compare that to it being the right thing to do right now but not having the cash to do it. Then you’re having to try and just keep things bubbling along, as best you can. That is how a huge number of football clubs outside the Premier League are run and it really constrains growth.

“We're approaching the stage where there are things that, for the club to grow longer term, will need to be invested in, so we need a good base of available capital to ensure the club can invest appropriately.”

Discussing a potential deal last weekend, Stewart Donald told the Roker Rapport podcast: “We don’t want people who talk a good game, say they have got money and then don’t back it up or people who have money but don’t know how to spend it.

“We want it structured, sustainable, long term and the people we are talking to are talking long, long term investment, long term plan, not built on sand and I’m hopeful that as much as anything now that we have got to persuade them to come with us on this journey.

“Where we are is absolutely fine, to keep competing as we are and be financially safe but I think we have now attracted people who can do what we’ve said.”

Donald and Methven have been looking for partners who back their strategy for the club’s long-term growth.

Clearly, should a deal go through, the Black Cats will be backed by significant financial capital.

This, though, would be about strategic, long-term investment in all areas of the club, not just on the pitch.

Sunderland appeal as a club because the platform for growth is significant and the infrastructure is already good.

Methven and Donald have already suggested that this about having the extra finance to accelerate and strengthen their plans to get the club back to the upper tiers of the game.

Donald spoke in depth to supporters recently about the growing impact of financial fair play rules, how that is affecting many clubs and why Sunderland will benefit.

Extra financial backing only strengthens their position within those parameters.

What do we still need to know?

If the deal goes through, then a number of key details will be clarified.

That includes just how big a stake Donald retains in the club, and what it means for Juan Sartori, who currently owns 20% of the club. He recently launched a bid for the Uruguayan presidency, though was beaten in his party’s primary elections.

A detailed explanation of the short and long-term plans will be dependent on the deal being successfully concluded, something Donald said he hoped would be ‘relatively quickly’.