Every word from Stewart Donald's first press conference as Sunderland's new owner

New Sunderland owner Stewart Donald and fellow director Charlie Methven met the press yesterday - and here's what they said.

Tuesday, 22nd May 2018, 11:06 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd May 2018, 11:11 am
Stewart Donald

Donald (SD) and Methven (CM) answered questions on their aspirations for Sunderland and the hunt for a new manager as well as giving a revealing insight into the deal that saw them take control of the club.

There were plenty of interesting talking points, and we've got every word from the first part of the press conference.

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Here's the full transcript as the duo met the press:

Q: Why Sunderland?

SD: It's Sunderland, simple as that. As soon as I was aware it was available and as soon as you get into the detail, you just have to try and get the deal done. Luckily for me, that's what's happened. If you're passionate about football and Sunderland Football Club comes on the market and you're available, you've got to think seriously about it.

Q: When was the deal finalised?

SD: It was last night it all got finalised. The league obviously approved it on Friday and we had a couple of little details just to tidy up, nothing that was ever going to be an issue, and that's all done. Here we are now.

Q: How did the deal come about about? Did you approach Ellis Short or did he approach you?

CM: I've known Ellis for a while and I spoke to Ellis about five weeks ago and he said that he was looking to sell. That was no great secret that he had decided to sell by the end of the season because he felt that the club really needed to have a full summer with the new owners and he didn't want to let the situation drift. He felt that with some of the groups he was speaking to the situation was drifting and I said I had the right guy to take it over. Then things moved pretty quickly. We had two or three weeks to do the due diligence and that all went smoothly. It was hectic, to do an exercise that complex in two or three weeks, and there were a couple of all-nighters and some very tired lawyers by the end of it. But we got through it. Ellis Short has been extremely constructive throughout and helped us to get it over the line in the timescale that he indicated. The last couple of weeks have been dealing with the Football League process and tidying up a few loose details around the club.

Q: There's been a lot of fees banded about, can you confirm how much you paid for the club?

SD: We've given Ellis £40million so that's the big part. Ellis was very clear that he didn't want the debt but we didn't want the debt either so we refused that benefit, which is only a paper tax benefit but nonetheless it leaves Sunderland with that debt. So we said to Ellis that's fine, you wipe it and we won't take it.

CM: Just to be quite clear on that, this summer people who follow the Sunderland situation closely will understand that there's a considerable cash requirement this summer. The discussion with Ellis was that we would be able to pay him over a period of time because he knew that we were going to have quite a lot of investment that needed to be made this summer. As Stewart said the price was £40million and Sunderland are debt free.

Q: What transfer budget will you be able to give the new manager?

SD: As much as was needed I would hope. In League One the transfer fees aren't large. Looking at the numbers we've put through the budget for Sunderland is going to be pretty hefty for League One. There's going to be a lot more, I would imagine, than any of the teams who got promoted last summer. We can generate what funds we need for that. As Charlie has mentioned there's quite a huge discrepancy between the remaining player income in relation to the sales going out. That means funding, and we then tidy up that situation so that's fine and leaves us neutral and then basically we look at the playing budget,of which there will obviously be transfer fees involved in. That's going to be a good budget for Sunderland and I'm sure it's a budget that one or two Championship managers would like.

Q: How soon are you hoping to appoint a new manager?

SD: Very soon I hope. We're obviously starting to go through that process and it will take probably seven days, maximum, before we have a new manager. Obviously we have to move because we need the manager to have as much of the summer as possible to assemble the squad that he wants and to assess what he's got. I would be very surprised if, by the weekend, we're not able to tell you who that is.

CM: The reality is that you can have notional conversations with people but until you've taken the football club over, they are notional conversations. Now the situation changes. Stewart is now in a position to have serious conversations with the candidates.

Q: What's the situation with the reported international consortium? Can you give us any details on them?

CM: The story of the last four or five weeks has been interesting because what became clear very early in the process was that the timescale was getting very crunched. Anything that delayed the process of the takeover was going to have a material impact on this summer's business. We took advice from contacts of ours in and around the game and what became clear was that the process would be quicker and more straightforward if the club was just taken over by Stewart. There are other people that we both have in mind who have further contacts that could be useful to Sunderland going forward and there are people who have expressed an interest to Stewart and me in having a stake in the club going forward. Stewart will be the majority shareholder in the club if that ever happens. It may well be in the future that people arrive and bring in extra capital to our group. But at the moment it's Stewart and, to a lesser degree, me.

Q: Are you looking forward to getting stuck in at the club?

SD: It'll be good fun. There's a lot to do and that's part of the challenge. We'll just get our teeth into it. There's a lot to do, clearly. There's been two relegation's and you can tell from the fans that they just want the football to be successful and to really be a part of it. You get a feeling that they don't feel like that at the moment, so there's a lot to do with the fans. There's obviously a lot to do with the community and the squad and it's a big job. But I'm not scared of that.

CM: The bottom line is that we're both very much 'roll your sleeves up' people. Ellis has largely been an absentee owner, I don't think that's a controversial thing to say and I don't think he will deny that. That will not be the case with us. We will be very hands on. Both of us create and run business and like to be very hands-on in all aspects of it. I'm not saying we'll be picking the first team, but you'll see us out and about doing quite a lot. The bottom line is that there needs to be a turnaround and that's not just an emotional turnaround but a turnaround in culture as well. Over the last two years this club has lost more games than any other club. So there's a real, proper job on our hands to try and get everyone facing the same direction and ready to be successful again.

Q: How much of a part did you play in the sacking of Chirs Coleman?

SD: Nothing at all, that's completely to do with Ellis. Any decision on the business prior to us being involved is down to Ellis. Ellis wanted to make sure that the football club was tied up in loads of areas for us and it's only now that you will see us take charge of the football club and the impact we will have.

Q: You've been open and honest with the fans so far - will that continue?

SD: The football club is for the fans, so they want to know what's going on at their football club. If I don't tell them what's going on, then they're not going to know. I would imagine that in the early period there will be plenty of questions and the fans will want to know the answers. I imagine very regularly we will have forums or meetings, I'll be available to tell the fans what they want to know.