Sunderland’s estimated worth revealed, what it would take for Kyril Louis-Dreyfus to buy out Madrox and what Stewart Donald can still gain
Football finance expert Kieran Maguire says it’s baffling that Sunderland chairman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus hasn’t bought out Madrox’s shares in the football club – after it was revealed the Frenchman owns just 41 per cent.
In a statement to supporters Louis-Dreyfus insisted he still has ‘executive control of the running of the football club, yet many fans feel they have been misled.
While the Black Cats chairman confirmed he acquired the biggest share in the club individually in February 2021, it has been revealed that former owner Stewart Donald still owns 34 per cent, while Juan Sartori and Charlie Methven – who were both part of the old Madrox regime – still hold 20 and five per cent respectively.
When Louis-Dreyfus, the son of Margarita and the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, purchased a majority stake in Sunderland 12 months ago, some reports suggested he had a trust fund worth in excess of $2billion.
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When the deal was confirmed, a club statement said Louis-Dreyfus would "acquire a controlling interest” of the club, with Donald, Methven and Sartori “each maintaining a minority shareholding.”
“Why he hasn’t bought them out totally is baffling,” Maguire tells the Echo.
“If PIF had bought 40 per cent of Newcastle instead of 80 per cent I think Newcastle fans would be wary of Mike Ashley still having his claws in the club.
“That is why I think Sunderland fans feel let down because there hasn’t been clarity.
“The words that have been used have been ambiguous at times and could lead fans to think that Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven were no longer connected with the club.
“It looks as if all of the shareholders are still pumping money into the club in proportion to their shareholdings.
“I think that could be the anchor potentially because if Louis-Dreyfus wants to put in £100million, it means that Methven, Sartoi and Donald would have to put in over £100million and they simply haven’t got those resources.”
What is Sunderland worth?
Supporters have long made clear they want rid of Madrox’s involvement at Sunderland, so the appearance of Methven at away games this season has only fueled discontent.
It is therefore hoped Louis-Dreyfus can still buy the remaining shares, while Donald and Methven have claimed they would be happy to sell their stakes in the club.
When asked what it would take for Louis-Dreyfus to buy the remaining shares, Maguire says: “It shouldn’t take much at all because League One clubs are not expensive.
“If we take a look at the deals, Hull City went for somewhere between £20-25million and they are in the Championship.
“Looking at deals in the EFL, Ipswich was £17.5million, perhaps £20million, so I expect a little bit more for the total price of Sunderland, you might be talking £30 million but that is pushing it because the club is losing money on a day-to-day basis.
“If Louis-Dreyfus already owns 41 per cent then the remaining 59 per cent of £30million, shall we say, is £18million, which is well within his remit.
“It makes you wonder why Donald and Methven are still connected to the club.”
Why are Madrox still involved?
So why are Madrox hanging around, and what could they still gain from owning shares in Sunderland?
“What they are hoping is that Sunderland return to the Premier League and then we are talking about a club which is worth a minimum of £150million,” explains Maguire.
“Once you establish yourself in the Premier League the deals for the clubs are in the reach of £200-220million.
“Burnley went for £175million, Everton went for £175million but were probably worth a bit more, Southampton have gone for £250-£260million.
“I suspect Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven fancy a slice of that.”
Who is making the decisions at Sunderland?
Sunderland’s ownership situation was brought into focus after the club’s prolonged search for a new head coach, while results also took a significant downturn.
The decision to sack Lee Johnson without a replacement lined up, as well as the 12-day search to find his replacement, brought scrutiny about who is making the final decisions.
But while Donald, Methven and Sartori still own 59 per cent of the club collectively, Maguire says the footballing decisions should be made by the club’s board of directors.
While Sartori was appointed back onto the board in May 2021, Louis-Dreyfus is accompanied by twin brother Maurice Louis-Dreyfus, Sky Sports presenter David Jones and Chief Operating Officer Steve Davison.
Igor Levin, the Louis-Dreyfus family lawyer, and Patrick Treuer, who also has close links to the Louis-Dreyfus family, are also on the board, as well as Simon Vumbaca, a lawyer who had previously represented Madrox.
“It’s a complicated one because Louis-Dreyfus still appears to have a lot of his allies on the board of directors,” says Maguire. “It’s the board of directors who are responsible for decision-making at the club rather than the shareholders.
“The whole point about a board of directors is that shareholders delegate decision-making to the board.
“That shouldn’t be too much of a problem, although we are never quite sure of the motives of Stewart Donald, Charlie Methven and Sartori.
“Originally they came in on a wave of enthusiasm and I think their constant invasiveness and lack of clarity when making announcements raised suspicions of the fanbase, perhaps rightly so."
What about the parachute payments?
Another other issue is the club’s parachute payments which Madrox used to purchase Sunderland, but are yet to be paid back in full.
“That simply reduces the budget,” adds Maguire.“If you take money out of anybody’s bank account it is going to restrict their ability to trade.
“It shouldn’t prevent the club from being able to recruit, it certainly has spent money in the transfer window unlike the majority of clubs in League One so it still has a huge financial advantage.”
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