Steve Davison gives the inside track on Kyril Louis-Dreyfus' Sunderland takeover and their ambitious plans
Sunderland's Chief Operating Officer Steve Davison has said that Kyril Louis-Dreyfus is 'in it for the long term' as they begin their rebuild of the club.
Davison is a key part of Louis-Dreyfus' management team tasked with overseeing all aspects of the club's business operation, as Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman sets out rebuilding the footballing structure.
A lifelong supporter of the club, Davison has opened up on the challenge ahead in an interview with North East Times Magazine.
He revealed how Charlie Methven introduced him to Louis-Dreyfus last summer, and how he came to be involved as notice period with engineering consultancy firm Atkins came to an end.
“I first met Kyril on a Zoom call around September time when I met him and his brother and I think it was an interview, at least I think he was interviewing me," Davison said.
“But I was also doing my own due diligence on him because obviously if I was going to associate my passion for the club and put my trust in someone then I really wanted to make sure that they were the right owners. So I was doing my own due diligence and I'm sure he was doing his on me as well.
“We had this conversation and then it became clear fellow soon afterwards that we were going to work together and although we didn't formalise a contract until a lot later, I effectively worked with him during the run-up to the takeover and got a contract at the start of January.
“As everybody knows his family were heavily involved in Marseille so he has football experience and cares passionately about football. He loves football and you can see that when you spend any time with him. His enthusiasm for the game is unbounded which is really great.
“You can imagine they have had lots of opportunities to buy football clubs and I think he made his mind up that football was something he wanted to make his career in and I believe he has looked at a number of clubs.
“He did a lot of research around Sunderland and he consulted with a lot of eminent people in football before he actually made the decision to buy the club.
“So I think this is not something that is on a whim in any way shape or form. This is a really considered opinion that is this is the right club and that he can take us all the way to the higher echelons of the Premier League. That is basically what the plan is all about, but we know this is a long way off sat in League One.
“We all know that is a long-term plan. It is not going to happen overnight. But he is in it for the long term and he is willing to put the time and effort into it.”
Davison says Louis-Dreyfus' commitment to the project is underlined by his move to the region and his prominent role in the early months of his tenure.
“He has based himself here now - so that was a challenge with a pandemic - but he has based himself in the area with his fiance and they are working here at the club for many days a week and he is very hands-on, he is great," he said.
“He really is a very enthusiastic young man. He wants to see progress, he is desperate for improvement but he has a good balance between pragmatism and impatience, I think - which he will need plenty of both.
“He has been a real pleasure to work with actually. And of course we have Kristjaan, who was joined a sporting director, and the three of us are quite aligned in our thought process, which is not to say we don't have good debates about what we're going to do but that has been a real positive thing.”
Davison also explained how the COVID-19 pandemic had extended the takeover process, both in terms of the logistics and how a sudden decline in revenues affected negotiations.
“The takeover did drag on for a long time," he said.
"But there were quite a few reasons why, and the most significant one is obviously the pandemic. It was literally a deal that was done on Zoom.
“These deals can be quite complex to conclude anyway but there were three existing owners for a start, which means you are dealing with three people, and Kyril couldn’t meet them in person, so everything had to be done online. That was obviously time consuming.
“Kyril didn’t meet Stewart until a few weeks ago at the game at Northampton. In fact they never actually met in person during the whole time we were negotiating and until after the deal was concluded, which is a bit bizarre. But that sums up what we were dealing with.
“It is to everybody's credit who was involved in the takeover that we actually did manage to conclude a deal."
As well as rebuilding the club's business operation, Davison says building strong relationships within the city will be a key goal.
"I have described my job as being paid by the football club but I am working for the whole city," he said.
"The two are absolutely synonymous. Without the community and local businesses, etc we will struggle to exist.
“The football club and the city and wider community are integrally linked because when the city does well, the likelihood the club is going to do well, and vice-a-versa.
“The whole community has an interest in the club. You can't not have an interest if you live in the city so it is really important we represent that community effectively and they are absolutely proud of what we are doing. We might not win every game but it is important to me that they feel pride in what we do."