Ellis Short is stepping up his efforts to sell Sunderland – with a German consortium currently in pole position.
The club’s American owner is in talks with two potential buyers; an unnamed German consortium and a fan-led international group being backed in-part by cash from the United States.
Short has set a deadline for a significant breakthrough, with the owner fully aware the impact the uncertainty over future ownership is having on the club’s attempts to mount a promotion challenge next season.
And it is understood that discussions around the German consortium bid are further along with the fan-led group emerging only recently.
The fan-led consortium, which is being led by Fulwell 73 Productions owners and Sunderland supporters Leo Pearlman, Gabe Turner and Ben Turner, is a serious contender though and their interest genuine.
The consortium also includes former Arsenal defender Tony Adams and one-time Chelsea business affairs director Paul Smith.
Talks with both parties are understood to have taken place as efforts to sell the club gather pace.
Fresh reports suggest a takeover deal could even be agreed ‘in principle’ by the end of this week, with officials from both bids working round the clock to push their case.
If that did materialise there would still need to be a period of due diligence, which could take a few weeks while the Football League would also have to rubber-stamp any sale.
Short is understood to be willing to accept a deal in the region of £85million to £90million, although any sale would include add-ons should Sunderland win promotion back to the Premier League in the next few seasons.
Short valued the club – which has a net debt of £110million – at £170million last season when they were in the Premier League.
There is, of course, also still scope for further interested parties to emerge before Short’s deadline for significant progress to be made.
With pre-season fast approaching and the Championship fixtures released today, that deadline for progress is understood to be the end of this month.
The situation means the manager hunt is effectively on hold, though Preston North End boss Simon Grayson – whose odds shortened yesterday – remains favourite for the job, while free agent Nigel Pearson remains a strong contender given that he is currently out of work.
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder and Sunderland legend Kevin Phillips are also among the frontrunners with the bookmakers.
The players return to training next week with first-team coach Robbie Stockdale set to be leading the training sessions unless there is a dramatic development over the coming week.