Sunderland chief executive Martin Bain insists that Ellis Short is 'emotionally invested' in the club's fortunes, despite his reduced presence on Wearside.
Short came close to selling the club in the summer and while the Black Cats were officially taken off the market shortly before Simon Grayson's appointment, it is widely thought that he would still be open to a sale if the conditions were right.
Short, absent for most Sunderland games this season, has come in for heavy fire from supporters frustrated at the severely limited summer spending.
Bain, however, says he remains very much 'engaged'.
He said: "Maybe because Ellis in the past, before I was here, has spent an awful lot of money on players, there's been a more significant visible investment, if you like, and Ellis was maybe getting around a little bit more.
The fact that he's not around so much and the fact that fans don't see the level of spending on the squad that they're used to and our performances are where they are then there's an automatic assumption that the owner is disengaged, that he doesn't care about the football club.
"Nothing could be further from the truth. He interacts with me and I believe he's emotionally invested in Sunderland, I hear him after the games and if the performances aren't what he expects the performances to be he's not a shrinking violet and he quite rightly expresses his opinions. If he didn't care about the football club he wouldn't express his opinion so from my perspective he's still an owner that's very much engaged."
Bain's arrival on Wearside last year saw Short take a significant step back from footballing affairs at the club, and the chief executive admits that he is at the heart of decision making behind the scenes.
Nevertheless, he says he remains in regular contact with the owner and that the club's reduced spending is part of a 'readjustment'.
Bain has spoken in the past of his goal to make Sunderland less dependent on Short's personal investment.
Bain said: “I make a lot of decisions and [Ellis] maybe runs the football club differently to what he did in the past.
"I don't know how my predecessors interacted with him but I interact with him, I think I have experience that allows me to deal with the fundamental issues at the football club and if I have a problem and I want some guidance or some counsel or just someone to have a chat with, Ellis is there when I need it.
"I’ve been here for over 12 months now and I knew I was taking on something that was a big task in hand, its just about getting things on a more even keel," he added.
"While people have challenged the fact that they haven’t seen spending in the way that they have in the past, there’s some fundamental reasons for that. Its not about the owner being disengaged or not caring, he does, its just about doing things differently and readjusting."