Sale of Sunderland AFC not ruled out but no deal imminent

Sunderland owner Ellis Short
Sunderland owner Ellis Short
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The sale of Sunderland AFC has not been ruled out but no deal is imminent, the Echo understands.

Owner Ellis Short is reported to want £170million for the Black Cats, who are currently bottom of the Premier League and £140million in debt.

The Echo understands that if an offer in line with Short's valuation of Sunderland is forthcoming then the American billionaire will consider it.

But no sale is imminent and the club will not be sold before the January transfer window.

It follows reports in The Sun that Short has engaged the services of New York-based investment bank Inner Circle Sports to tout the club to potential buyers.

Inner Circle Sports has produced a three-page Sunderland prospectus, which they are sending to any interested investors, which details the club's assets.

Assets include the Stadium of Light and the 60-acre Academy of Light training ground and the 180 acres adjacent to it, which has the potential for commercial development.

Sunderland have confirmed that there is a brochure in existence, adding it is available for anyone interested in the club.

A club statement said: "The Premier League is the most watched sporting league in the world.

"Its popularity and global reach means that there will always be interest in its member clubs and the information is simply a standardised document which is available in relation to any enquires received about the club."

Inner Circle Sports are focused on the global sports industry, specialising in providing corporate finance and capital raising services to help with buy-outs, the selling of companies and also refinancing.

Interestingly, Inner Circle Sports were the same company that brokered Short’s acquisition of Sunderland from the Irish-based Drumaville consortium in 2009.

The prospectus talks about the club's first-rate stadium and academy, loyal fanbase and reflects the massive injection of income top flight club's received thanks to the latest TV deal.

Sunderland have had ten straight seasons in the Premier League and had last season's sixth highest attendance, all of which is highlighted in the prospectus.

As previously reported by the Echo, there was initial interest earlier in the summer about a possible takeover from an overseas buyer based in the Far East but that did not materialise.

The initial interest waned, with very informal discussions not progressing any further.

Neither Short nor the club has publicly stated the club is up for sale, although the Echo understands the club could be sold if the owner felt it was in the best interests of SAFC.

Short has bankrolled Sunderland since he took charge seven years ago and has since invested more than £200m of his own cash into the club.

Short has previously faced criticism from fans over the club's transfer business, although Sunderland spent £27.12million in the summer transfer market - the 10th highest net spend.

Short, who covers every annual shortfall that Sunderland make in their budget, defended his record in his programme notes last August.

Short said: "The amount that I fund every season exceeds the collective total amount funded by every owner Sunderland has ever had since the club was formed in 1879.

"I have done this willingly as I want us to be more than a club that simply exists in the top flight.

"Has the money been spent effectively? No - that much is clear and ultimately that is my fault.

"But it is not a result of a lack of ambition or commitment."

Inner Circle Sports have previously been involved with football clubs around the world including Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Sheffield Wednesday in this country.