Who is Stewart Donald? The Eastleigh chairman set to take control of Sunderland

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Stewart Donald will become the new chairman of Sunderland AFC after Ellis Short agreed a deal to sell the club to an international consortium headed by the Easteligh FC owner.

Short today sensationally announced he had agreed a deal to sell the Black Cats debt-free, subject to English Football League approval.

Sunderland's Stadium of Light.

Sunderland's Stadium of Light.

Who is Donald, though, and what could he bring to Sunderland.

Here we profile the businessman and explore his background in football.

Who is Stewart Donald?

Donaled is a Witney-based businessman and a lifelong fan of Oxford United, three years ago he purchased a 10 per cent stake in the club.

Oxford has since been taken over in February this year.

Donald became chairman and majority shareholder of Eastleigh in February 2012 and he oversaw Eastleigh's promotion from Conference South in 2013-14.

How much success has he had at Eastleigh?

Six years ago Donald, who runs Bridle Insurance, bought the club.

Back then Eastleigh had 32 season ticket holders and attendance averaged a couple of hundred.

Fast forward half a dozen years and the club now boasts more than 1,500 season ticket holders with attendances topping 2,000.

Donald, an Oxfordshire-based businessman, has invested more than £10million into the club.

In May 2017, Donald told the Daily Echo: "£10 million is £9.5 million more than I expected to spend after five years, but I would do it all over again.

"If I had to put another £10 million in, I’d do it without hesitation to get us where we want to go.

"I love it and I’ve got to see it through now. If not, it will have all been wasted."

He has ambitions of getting Eastleigh promoted into the Football League and to climb up the league pyramid.

Why Sunderland?

Donald revealed last week that he'd been approached to be an investor in a consortium looking to take over at Sunderland.

Donald said he 'wouldn’t rule it out' but claimed it was unlikely anything would happen and it would take an “absolutely sensational” deal for him to get involved.

It seems the deal has been sensational enough, with Short insisting he has paid off all the debts – estimated at £130million.

Donald said Donald, who will now relinquish ownership of Eastleigh, said: “All of us involved in this bid believe that Sunderland represents an extraordinary opportunity. Our group have all been involved in building – or re-building – football clubs to reach their potential and we believe that over the last decade we have acquired the necessary skillsets to overcome the many challenges that will face us at this huge club.”

Why has Short plumped for Donald’s consortium?

Donald has nowhere near the wealth of billionaire Short, but with Sunderland’s leaking money on a daily basis it needs someone capable of getting to grips with the running costs – and reducing them.

Short believes this consortium is best placed to take the club forward, saying “higher offers from less qualified buyers were rejected.”

Short added: “It is no secret that I have been trying to sell Sunderland, but I have waited until the right group came along that have the experience, finances and plan to take this great club back to where it deserves to be.”

Donald has always run Eastleigh debt-free and now has the chance to operate Sunderland in a similar manner.