Stewart Donald leaves the door open to a Mark Campbell takeover of Sunderland AFC - and reacts to Sammy Yu and Micky Gray claims

Stewart Donald has left the door open for Mark Campbell to make a second attempt to purchase Sunderland AFC – despite last summer’s unsuccessful talks with the real estate expert.

Friday, 17th July 2020, 7:30 am

Campbell engaged in detailed talks with Donald last summer, but a deal failed to materialise.

Speaking at the time, Campbell told The Echo: “There were certain components of the deal at the end that weren’t going to work for the club.

“It was irrelevant what we were going to do.

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Mark Campbell

“I went to this club in March and basically moved to the city. I was there three or four times a week to try and get this done.

“You’ve got two people in the consortium who are massive Sunderland fans, we had a robust business plan that the likes of serious people in football were blown away by because they had never seen anything like it.

“Anyone can own a football club, but if you don’t run it right you’re going to go bust.

“For us, it came to a point at the end where we had to make a decision.

“We’ve had a number of other clubs approach us since we’ve lost this in the last ten days, which is when we said ‘we can’t do this, if we do this we’re going to bankrupt the club.’”

But the Echo understands that Campbell remains interested in a deal and has made a number of moves behind the scenes in recent weeks as he looks to launch a foray into English football. These include the appointment of a new executive team at his holding company, Markell Group, including John Park and Ryland Morgans.

Campbell’s interest in Sunderland was met with skepticism by a number of Sunderland supporters, who have grown concerned after he failed in a bid to buy Falkirk shortly after his talks with the Black Cats collapsed.

But when quizzed on the real estate businessman’s interest in the club by BBC Radio Newcastle, Donald refused to rule-out striking a deal with Campbell.

However, he was clear that the deal would have to be drastically different to the terms that were proposed by Campbell and his group last summer – which left him feeling unsure as to whether the deal ‘was correct’.

Donald said: "The fans have asked me to leave, and whether it’s Mark Campbell or somebody else, if somebody passes the EFL [tests], has the funds and has the vision… I’m not quite sure what the fans want me to do.”

When asked if he would be comfortable selling the club to Campbell, Donald replied: "Not on the deal that we had before.

"We’re under an NDA from before, but that previous deal – there was only a negotiation downwards after the original deal and a flexibility around the funding. That flexibility got to an extent where I thought that at that stage, I wasn’t sure if it was correct.

“If Mark Campbell comes back to me with a different deal – and I’ll stress again nobody is in the data room, nobody has given me proof of funds or a letter of intent – then can I consider it?

"Well the fans want me out, the abuse is increasing, they said I was killing the club. I’m doing my best, which I appreciate isn’t good enough, so if anyone shows me that [proof of funds]…

"We had a discussion the other – should I sell to him or shouldn’t I? And I didn’t really get a response. It’s difficult when you’re under the pressure that I’m under.

"If he comes back with £80million and he’s going to put £50million in the club, then financially if he sells that story and it looks right then that’s a good deal for the football club.

"Some people have said have you read about him in the paper? Well I’ve read about me in the paper. I’m not going to take everything that’s written in the newspaper at face value.

“It's about the deal. Do I want to sell to a credible person and take the football club forward? Of course I do.”

Campbell is not the only person interested in a move for the Black Cats and, although no talks are at an advanced stage, a number of groups are monitoring the situation.

The Sunderland owner has confirmed that he has this week reached out to Yu to discuss a bid – while he has also held dialogue with former full-back Micky Gray, who previously claimed that a consortium of potential buyers with which he was involved had ‘hit a wall’ in their attempts to strike a deal.

"There’s obviously lots of press speculation about people we’ve been awkward with,” said Donald.

"I read about Micky Gray, I read about Sammy Yu. Micky Gray has got my number because I got him some tickets at Wembley and he’s got Neil Fox’s number because he was given it. I think that was months ago.

"We phoned him this week and asked him if his consortium was interested. Bearing in mind they had obviously been in touch, he didn’t know the figures so we gave him the figures and he’s going to get back to us.

"Sammy Yu came on to us a while ago and we were expecting an offer months ago from him. I know there’s been speculation on him, but as of yet no offer. We’ve tried to get back hold of him because we read the article and he said he’d get back to us.”