Stewart Donald gives update on Sunderland takeover process and states why he would like to stay

Stewart Donald says that the COVID-19 outbreak has slowed the process of selling the club, but he remains in talks with interested parties.

Thursday, 9th April 2020, 8:18 am
Updated Thursday, 9th April 2020, 8:19 am

However, in an extensive interview with talkSPORT’s GameDay podcast, Donald has also made clear that he would be a reluctant seller, and hinted that he would stay if he felt fan sentiment towards him had changed.

Donald confirmed that he was looking to sell the club at the start of this year after a number of prominent fan groups began a social media campaign urging him to find a new buyer.

Their ‘Donald Out’ message was shared by thousands of supporters online, raising concerns with the team’s poor performance on the pitch and fears of a lack of direction off it.

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Sunderland owner Stewart Donald

It had been a turbulent campaign, with Charlie Methven stepping down from the board and the extent of Juan Sartori’s involvement in the operation still unclear.

Donald had also twice been in advanced talks to sell a majority stake in the club beforehand, firstly with Mark Campbell’s consortium, and secondly with the FPP group.

The latter eventually injected around £9 million into the club in the form of a loan, repayable against the club’s assets,

The FPP group have never spoken publicly about their intentions or desires for the club, and Donald has been insistent in stating that they are not interested in buying the club at this stage.

However, he has now said that he believes they would ‘completely engage’ with ‘a little bit more success’.

Donald conducted the interview to reflect on the recent release of Sunderland ‘Til I Die season two.

“In an ideal scenario, I wouldn't sell it,” Donald said.

“I broke the football club down into a few parts and the most difficult part I feel we've achieved in stabilising it. For me personally it's disappointing because I feel that I've done the first part in getting the club stabilised.

“There was a very high-profile campaign where the fans came out after some bad results and said they would like me to leave - and as I said in the documentary, the fans will tell me when they want me to leave and that's what they've told me.

“The virus at the moment doesn't make that easy, but I'm doing what the fans have asked me and the club is for sale and there are people interested in it. But the virus is making that process a little bit slower. Do I want to do that? No. As you can see in the documentary, I feel this is my one chance to have a football club like at Sunderland. And now I'm in at Sunderland, I don't want to go anywhere else.

“I feel that actually, conversely, football is going to become easier to compete in so we're better placed than ever to do this journey that I envisaged doing. But from my perspective, I would much prefer to hold on to the club, deliver for the fans and hopefully we will become successful, and then we can talk to the guys who have invested since we've come in and ask if we can have a bit more firepower when we get to the Championship. That was the plan.

“It is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, but if people don't want you to do it, then your life is too short to be somewhere were people don't want you to be. It's obviously time to move on, but why would you want to move on.

“I dreamed that I would play my part in bringing some happiness there, and ultimately while I might have done some good work financially, I haven't delivered. That will always be a bit of a miss for me.

“If the fans said to me tomorrow 'stay', and the guys from America would completely engage - which I would hope if we can get a little bit more success they would - then I would love to stay,” he added.

“Charlie would love to stay. We know this is our, as we've said, our one shot. There is no doubt that mistakes have been made, but I think when you look at anything like that you have to adjust. You have to ask why is your chairman or owner making mistakes? Are they making them for financial reasons, for disingenuous reasons, or are they genuinely trying to do their best for the community and the club? I think that's a bit unfair? [to say they’re not.]”

Donald was then asked whether he would make a profit on the sale of the club.

“Yes I'll make a profit, but nowhere near as much as people would think - because the real value of Sunderland is in the Championship or the Premier League, and it's a question of speculating a bit to get there,” he said.

“At the moment we are sat here in a really good financial position ready to have a go, but haven't quite got the football right. Off the back of all the other things we've had to get right, I don't think it's disastrous - but it did feel that way in December for people and I get that.

“If they want me to leave because they think I'm incompetent and can't get the football right, I understand that. But if they want me to leave because they think I'm not caring for their club, they've got that wrong.

“I think the majority of Sunderland fans know I've done my best. I knew we needed investment, but I wanted to be the one who got that investment and then delivered for the fans.

“Having got the investment and got it ready, and got the fanbase going, and brought a manager in and a settled squad, I feel that it would have been nice to stay.

“I think there is naturally a view from Sunderland fans, or a lot of them - and I fully accept it - that we've had two relegations, we're in League One, we're a huge club, let's spend some money and get out of there. I accept that, and if that's how they feel that's fine.

“I said to them, ‘if you don’t want me, tell me’. And they’ve told me.”

Speaking last week, Methven, who still holds a 6% stake in the club, said he expected Sunderland to be under new ownership by the end of May.

“Anyone who is going to be buying Sunderland football club from us is someone who is buying it for the long term, not the next two months, three months, whatever it might be,” he told the Radio Times.

“As things stand right now, there are well-progressed and productive discussions taking place with potential new owners of the club and Stewart has always said he hopes to have that issue sorted by the end of this season. That’s our aim and it’s not entirely in our control.

“The people who are in discussions have to make their own decisions as to whether they want to do it or not, just as we did two years ago. Us buying the club wasn’t in Ellis Short’s control, that had to ultimately be in our control.

“As things stand here right now we still believe the club will be in new hands by the end of May.”