Mike Ashley has made renewed contact with Derby County’s administrators, and Sky Sports News has been told the former Newcastle owner remains very keen to buy the club.
It is thought there has been no reply from Quantuma, the administrators, to Ashley’s approach, despite the period of exclusivity granted to prospective buyer Chris Kirchner expiring on Saturday night.
Kirchner has admitted on social media that negotiations with outgoing Derby owner Mel Morris over a separate deal for the stadium have reached an impasse.
Derby City Council has been in negotiations with Morris over the possibility of public money being used to buy Pride Park – an option which Kirchner is thought to favour, so that he can focus his resources on paying off Derby’s substantial debt.
To that end, Sky Sports News has been told that Derby would face another automatic 15-point deduction from the EFL, if at any stage Kirchner defaulted on his business plan to pay 35p in the pound over a three-year period to the club’s non – football creditors.
With no imminent takeover looking likely, the threat of liquidation is increasing for Derby, though Sky Sports News has been told the administrators do have other short-term loan options available to cover the lack of ticket and other revenues, now that the Championship season has finished. That would, however, increase Derby’s overall debt still further, and potentially deter would-be buyers.
It’s thought both Ashley and Kirchner have been frustrated by the delays in the takeover process. Had Derby been sold quickly after it first went into administration in September, the new owners could have made investments in the squad to try to avoid relegation, and also prevented the sale of some of Derby’s best young players which were sanctioned to help keep the club afloat.
Sky Sports News has been told Morris wants £22m for the stadium to be bought outright, but is prepared to offer a lease agreement instead.
Whilst £22m is a fraction of what it would cost to build a stadium like Pride Park, without a viable football team in the City, the true value of the stadium is hugely diminished.
Ashley’s Newcastle: No trophies, no fun, no hope
‘”I want to have fun and win some trophies,” said Mike Ashley soon after assuming control in 2007. The wait for a major trophy now extends over half a century but it is the fact that his 14 years in charge were the opposite of fun that Newcastle fans will not forgive.
Failure, there has been plenty of that. He has presided over two of Newcastle’s six relegations in their 129-year history. Farce, that has been a more frequent visitor to St James’ Park than Ashley himself. But fun has never been a friend to his Newcastle.
During his time in charge, the one-time entertainers of English football were reduced to a grim curiosity. The rest of the country gawped in disbelief. Supporters merely endured.
Icons were alienated, interlopers overpromoted. Money was spent sporadically and begrudgingly, the investment intermittent and haphazard. Strategy was absent. When it did emerge it was about no more than ticking over. Nobody could mistake it for ambition.
Under Ashley, this became a zombie club, an illusion of life.
Read Adam Bate on Mike Ashley’s 14-year reign at Newcastle`
Rooney: ‘I want to rebuild Derby’
Derby manager Rooney told Sky Sports after their relegation to League One was confirmed that he wants to stick around and bring the “happy days back” to the club if the takeover goes through.
However, he emphasized the precarious situation Derby find themselves in leaves his position at the club in doubt.
“The takeover has to happen. If the takeover doesn’t happen, then I really fear for where the club will end up,” Rooney told Sky Sports.
“The club’s future is in doubt, if [the takeover] doesn’t happen my future is in doubt. So it has to.
“If it happens [the takeover], then I want to rebuild the club. You see the fans what it means to them every week, this is a special club, a big club we are all proud to be at and I want to be the one to bring the happy days back.”
He added: “It is a complex situation. I feel for the players more because we’ve picked up 52 points and we’d be safe now in normal circumstances.
“We’ve paid the price for what the previous owner has left behind. It is no one’s fault other than the previous owner and we are paying the price. I’m sure it is a sad day for him as well because Mel Morris is a Derby fan, I am sure he’d be disappointed.”