The Great Sunderland Buy-in: Pete Sixsmith’s view

Somewhere in the archives, under the “Who are You” byline, is a comment by a Man United fan. It’s to the effect that American investment does not end well. I can think of three times when he may have been proved right: one being his own club, where they have moved from being debt-free to owing £300 million since 2005, and the second being Liverpool, where  legal action forced the sale of the club. The third case is, of course Sunderland, where Ellis Short managed a decline that exceeded all expectations, but did enough to ensure the survival of the club when he finally left.

Yet Man United are still one of, if not the, richest and most successful club(s) in the world and Liverpool are champions of Europe, and both are still owned by Americans. So should Sunderland get back into bed with another American billionaire? Here’s what Pete Sixsmith thinks:

Pete Sixsmith

One of the great advantages of getting up at 5.15 a.m. six days a week to do the papers is that I get a look at all the front and back pages. This morning, as I was loading my bag up, I saw a short paragraph on the front page of The Times that said, “Sunderland sale talks.” It got me excited and believe me, it takes a lot to do that at 5.45 on a Friday morning.

the wrong Mr. Dell.

Turning to the back page and totally ignoring the splendid news from Headingley (cricket side of stand), there was a further piece by two journalists about the prospective incoming investment. The name Dell was prominent. The former Radio 2 presenter Alan Dell, a favourite of my father, was discounted due to the fact, that he was dead. I also discounted Archie Bell’s backing group, The Drells, as they had a letter more in their name so it couldn’t be them.

That left me with two possibilities; Donald Dell, the former USA tennis professional and sports agent or Michael Dell, the founder and principal owner of Dell Technologies. They were a big company. I had heard of them. The tennis guy lost out; computers won. By this time, I was being ushered out of the shop to get my round done. On the way out, I noticed an extra copy of The Times so I did something I have never, ever done before and bought a copy of a Murdoch newspaper so that I could bring it home and peruse the story at my leisure. The receipt for £1.60 will be with M Salut within the hour.

I glanced at the other papers and there was nothing. The Northern Echo carried news of Jack Ross’s press conference yesterday in which he said that the Bury situation could have been us. I thought that Bolton was a better parallel. Like us The Trotters have a Premier League history, a new stadium and a shared experience with Sam Allardyce. Unlike us, no knight in shining armour rode in from the wilds of Oxfordshire to apply a tourniquet to the ever widening wound that was our financial plight 15 months ago. The red tops were more involved with Joffra Archer (and why not – he looks the real deal) and the usual Liverpool/Arsenal/City/United gossip with a bit of Bury thrown in. Nothing in The Guardian and my customers are far too sane to read the madness that appears in the Express and Mail.

When I got home after a pleasant trek over the fields opposite Sixsmith Towers, I read the story. It was clearly a goer. The story had been carefully placed in a paper that was widely regarded as “a paper of record” and the reporting was sober and sensible.

There were four names mentioned: Michael Dell, Glen Fuhrman, John Phelan and Robert Platek. For you, loyal readers, I hastened to my laptop (an HP, not a Dell but that will be rectified before we win the Premier League) and did some extensive research on the Four Just Men who are (hopefully) buying into our club. Here goes…..

Michael Dell penthouse.

Michael Dell is, like Ellis Short, a Texan from Houston. He is 54, immensely rich, with Forbes Magazine (not one that I deliver on my round – more British Homing World, Take A Break and TV Quick) rating him as the 20th wealthiest man in the world. He’s the founder and CEO of Dell Industries which he started up in 1984. By 2001 they were the world’s biggest computer manufacturer and they continue to sell by the million. They have a manufacturing plant in Limerick, so there could be more opportunities for a preseason hoolie in Ireland.

As the company grew, so did his wealth and he founded the MSD Foundation with his wife Susan to channel some of his money into philanthropy and art. He likes paintings and apartments (he paid $100.5m for a penthouse in New York) and now he likes Sunderland AFC – we hope.

His three partners in MSD are Glenn Fuhrman who also likes art and making money, John Phelan, who went to the London School of Economics and who used to work at Goldman Sachs, who are a rather large and rather successful investment bank and Robert Platek, who is the obligatory bearded techie and who is a Canadian from Toronto.

 

I surmise that they have watched “Sunderland Till I Die” which was a huge success in North America. Sarah and Steve Leahy, Canadian friends of mine, watched it avidly. Sarah, who worked with me at Ferryhill years ago, had been to Roker Park pre-Peter Reid and had an understanding of the passions that the club aroused. They asked me if I had watched the programme, to which I gave my stock reply “I don’t need to watch the bloody thing, I lived through it.”

If this investment comes off, and I assume it will, this gives us an opportunity to move forward. Money will be available to perhaps bring in better players. Lessons will have been learned (we hope) from the excesses of the Short regime. No more 5-year contracts, no more dodgy Argentine knees purchased, no more shopping sprees in Paraguay and Ghana. Sensible progress needs to be the made, with promotion to the Championship and then some careful spending and building over two or three years and then, perhaps, we can do what Wolves are doing now.

For Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven, there must be relief that they have been able to attract investors with such a pedigree. They have done a fine job in stabilising the club and preventing administration and goodness knows what else. I hope they remain involved and that their financial gamble – and it was one – is suitably rewarded. I also hope that we don’t get carried away and that we, as supporters, remain patient. Promotion is a must now and Jack Ross and the players know that they must deliver. If it’s scrappy, who cares; if we can do it in style, so much the better.

Dell’s slogan is “Dell Purely You.”

It could be “Dell Purely SAFC.”  We live in hope.

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8 thoughts on “The Great Sunderland Buy-in: Pete Sixsmith’s view”

    • I’m not really up on it but my limited understanding is that the wealth of the owners is irrelevant. It is about having a sustainable wage bill in relation to income. Plenty of wealthy owners have bankrolled a club then left them in trouble. We would have been in the same boat had Ellis Short not been prepared to write off some of what the club owed him.

      The new owners have done really well to get the club sustainable on a League 1 budget.

      Short knew nothing about football and the way fans relate to their club. Like other American investors he would be more familiar with the franchise model of US sports. There’s no doubt he was badly advised and made some poor appointments.

      Donald, Methven and Sartori are football fans and understand it. It sounds as if they are going to be allowed to carry on with their plans, just with more financial backing for future progress. At least I hope so.

      This might help

      https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/what-msd-takeover-mean-sunderland-16806097

  1. Usually I don’t read speculation on transfers or potential buyers. I wait until something comes to fruition and then I read about it. Avidly.

    This time, I made an exception, seeing as it is by Salut! Sunderland and Sixer.

    Many fine points made, by Sixer, and the two btl.

  2. You forgot Randy Lerner who bought AV but invested little.

    Most of the papers don’t mention that there is a ceiling on investment at present called the Fair Play Regulations.

    I am sure some of the foreign owned clubs in the PL get round this (Citeh) so I would be looking for some likely wheezes like more concerts, major sponsorships and perhaps infrastructure investment. Does Dell own an airline by any chance?

    The worry of course is that any American fund of this nature is in it for a profit so either there will be a lot of milking going on or the club will be sold again once it establishes itself in the PL. It’s all about the calculation called net present value for this sort of investor.

  3. If we can believe what we read it would appear that whilst these mega rich investors are looking to put in a substantial amount, as and when needed, Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven will still be in charge of the day to day running of the club which I for one would be happy about.

    If the deal goes ahead it won’t take long for the expectations of some followers of the club to start demanding we sign big money players on big money wages and an unrealistic expectation that we will walk our way to the top of the Premier League.

    Pete calls for patience and patience will be needed. Stewart and Charlie have done a great job in reconnecting the club with the fans. Charlie was having a pint in the Cemetery Hotel on Tuesday and Stewart has booked his place on the South Shields’ supporters’ bus for an away game and their interactions with supporters’ groups is to be applauded.

    The league’s rules on wages and turnover still means we shall be restricted as to what we can pay out to players and the current management team have shown astute business sense in operating within these rules. Following on from Cattermole and Oviedo’s departures it would appear that a deal has been struck with Glenn Loovens, presumably to make way for a new signing in the next day or two. Should the rumours about Joel Lynch and a left sided full back turn out to have substance, then it would be no surprise if there are plans to let Jack Baldwin who seems to have dropped down the pecking order, move either.

    Interesting times but I’ll wait and see what transpires regarding the takeover and transfers but I expect we’ll know more by the end of the weekend.

    • Further to that Glenn Loovens has come out and said that he was sorry to have to leave and had asked if the club could use him in some other capacity. He had only positive thoughts on the club. If that is true and not a condition of his leaving settlement it would seem to be more evidence that the club is being run in a professional and ethical manner.

      Compare to two years ago with Darren Fletcher’s drunken rant, Rodwell’s constant injuries, Ndong and Djilibodji’s behaviour.

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