Exclusive: Businessman confirms Sunderland takeover interest and reveals how close he came to buying club from Ellis Short

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Sammy Yu has confirmed he is part of a group interested in buying Sunderland AFC - and has pledged that money ‘is not a problem’ for his backers.

The Hong Kong-based businessman spoke exclusively to the Echo about his interest in the Black Cats, which dates back to before Stewart Donald and his partners took control of the club in the summer of 2018.

Yu, who has previously coached and managed a number of teams in his homeland, was previously vice chairman of Birmingham City under the controversial Carson Yeung - before seeing a bid to take control of the club in his own right fall flat.

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He later saw a similar move for Sheffield Wednesday fail, but remains keen on helping broker a deal for a club in England.

Sammy Yu remains interested in a takeover of Sunderland AFCSammy Yu remains interested in a takeover of Sunderland AFC
Sammy Yu remains interested in a takeover of Sunderland AFC | JPIMedia

Indeed, his attention in recent years has been fixed on Sunderland, with Yu and a group of financial backers still keen on buying Sunderland AFC.

A deal is not close however.

While interest has somewhat cooled after limited dialogue with the Black Cats’ hierarchy - Yu and his group are keeping a close eye on proceedings.

“We have a group that are interested in buying Sunderland,” he explained.

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“We have been in touch, and the story is actually quite long. Before Stewart Donald purchased the club, we were having a very close conversation with Ellis Short.

“Then we were almost there, and all of a sudden Ellis Short sold the club to Stewart.

“So we thought that it was gone, so we didn’t really chase it any more until last year. We spoke to people in the club and they said that Stewart wanted to sell, so we were back in conversations.

“We went through that with someone in the club and we tried to go forward but, as of today, we haven’t received any updates, information and so on.

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“Without any proper conversations, we prefer to hold our intentions for the time being."

He added: "For us, money is not a problem - it’s about talking to get the right deal.

“Maybe the club has some other offer at the moment, but we haven’t got from Sunderland everything we need to purchase a club so we will hold up at the moment.”

The consortium including Yu is only one of a number of groups to have considered a move for the Black Cats in recent months.

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Mark Campbell came close to purchasing the club last summer, before Glenn Fuhrman, Robert Platek and John Phelan also engaged in advanced takeover talks before finalising an investment deal with Donald.

But with a number of English clubs on the market, what was it that attracted the Far East group to Sunderland?

“I know the club is a good club, a big club,” said Yu.

“They should be a Premier League club and it’s a pity that in the last 15 years, Sunderland has been unsuccessfully running.

“We wanted to take over the club and run it in the right way. Look at Ellis - I think he’s a tremendous man and he put in about £170million. Nobody should blame him, it’s about the people who run the club.”

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Full details of the members of Yu’s consortium remain unclear and, while the businessman was reluctant to give precise details, he did offer a glimpse into those who have formed the group.

And should a takeover be completed, Yu would take a hands-on role at the Academy of Light - much like he did during his time at Birmingham City.

“They are both business and football people,” he said.

“They know football and are interested in it, but they are also businessmen.

“If we go ahead, we will have people in roles to run the club. Myself and a colleague will deeply enroll in the club and hopefully put them back on track.

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“But we all know a club like Sunderland, if you want to put them back on track, it’s not easy.

“You need a lot of hard work, not only money, but the knowledge, the effort, the organisation and the heart to make the club good.

“Money, Ellis Short can tell you, can end up with nothing. It’s the knowledge that is very important.”

But if a deal were to be completed, would be able to stump up the cash needed?

“If we go ahead, of course.

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“We are well prepared to put money on the table. But the problem is we are yet to have a proper dialogue.

“Maybe Stewart already has someone in his mind and maybe he can sell the club. He might want to go quickly, I don’t know, I can’t represent him.”

Speaking in January, Sunderland shareholder Charlie Methven suggested that a number of 'credible' parties had expressed interest in purchasing the club.

"We've been really blown by away by the level of interest in buying the club,” he said, speaking to BBC Newcastle.

“From really good people as well.

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“Pretty much within a week of Stewart this time saying Sunderland is up for sale, we had a queue at our door of very credible people.

“We're now just going through the process of talking to people about what their plans for the club would be, because obviously it's very important that the best possible people come to the club.

"We really hope to conclude that process as soon as possible because for the club's sake, the new ownership needs to be in place to plan for the summer."