Championship takeovers: Grimm or happily ever after fairy tales?
By Laura Jones.
Last week Sheffield Wednesday became the latest Championship club to be taken over by wealthy overseas buyers. Do these fairy tale purchases actually give clubs a happy ending or do they just make for a Grimm reading.
Once upon a time there was a football club from the fair land of Yorkshire, who had slept since the turn of the millennium. Though Sheffield Wednesday made many attempts to free themselves from their slumber, alas their true prince never revealed themselves.
Then one day they were rescued by wealthy Thai tuna mongers, who woke them and they lived happily ever after in the Premier League?
Well…as long as the Football League ratify the dream and The Owls new owners are deemed ‘fit and proper’.
There have been a number of Championship takeovers in the past few years with varying degrees of success. Let’s take a look at the last three takeovers and see what their prospects are of a happy ending.
Leeds United’s takeover history could be a cautionary fable written by Martin Amis and performed on stage by Benny Hill.
Enter the eccentric Massimo Cellino, who bought 75% of the club in 2014. Cellino is currently banned by the Football League from any involvement with the club until April. This ban is for ‘dishonesty’, after he was found guilty of tax evasion in Italy.
Gulf Finance House (GFH), the previous owners, have retained 25% of their shares in Leeds albeit in different guises. With former Chief Executive David Haigh languishing in jail in Dubai, accused (but not charged) of stealing £4 million from GFH, the saga doesn’t make for pleasant reading.
Due to Cellino’s ban, the outstanding issues between the new and part owners cannot be resolved. Leeds United are in limbo until spring and faced with a transfer embargo under the Financial Fair Play rules.
A solution seems far, far away.
Life before new ownership was more successful for Reading. Under John Madejski they built a solid team, academy and a financially viable business. From Alan Pardew through to Steve Coppell, the team acquired cheap but effective players like Nicky Shorey, Kevin Doyle and Steve Sidwell. Without spending too much they were promoted to the Premier League with a record number of points.
The issue seemed to be that Madejski and Coppell wanted to continue their bargain bin dipping to inevitable ends.
Madejski sold 51% of the club to the largely anonymous Russian businessman, Anton Zingarevich, in 2012, with a view to him buying the remaining shares at a later date. The deal fell through and with debts creeping up to £20 million; Madejski had to look elsewhere for investment.
Reading was bought by a consortium of Thai business people in 2014. Researching the club it’s not easy to see who actually owns and runs the club right now. With confusion in the boardroom, Reading have gone from being automatic and play-off contenders to mid table mediocrity.
Bournemouth are making their beggar to royalty fairy tale a reality. In 2008/09 The Cherries were in League 2, had 17 points deducted for failing to agree a Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA). They received a winding up petition and were teetering on the edge until their Russian knight in shining armour bought 50% of the club in 2011. Maxim Demin is an elusive Petrochemicals Trader, not exactly Saudi royalty but he has invested in the team to make them highly competitive.
Demin bought the remaining 50% of Bournemouth in 2013. Since his arrival the club has had two promotions and currently stand top of the Championship. Bournemouth are this year’s surprise promotion contenders.
For Championship fans, all this beanstalk climbing to find the golden goose is exhausting. Some have to run the gauntlet of ogres before they get their ‘happily ever after.’
You just have to be careful who you buy the magic beans from.
Read more from Laura Jones here!
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