Sunderland chairman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus has increased his stake in the Championship club after reaching an agreement to buy out shares held by Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven.
Louis-Dreyfus has been the biggest shareholder at the Stadium of Light since first arriving on Wearside in February of last year but the ownership structure has been a contentious issue in recent months.
As first revealed by The Athletic in February, Louis-Dreyfus only bought 41 per cent of shares during an apparent takeover 16 months ago, leaving previous owner Donald with 34 per cent, Methven with 5 per cent and Juan Sartori, the Uruguayan businessman, retaining 20 per cent.
Louis-Dreyfus has maintained a willingness to increase his stake at the right price and he has now completed a deal that gives him a 51 per cent majority ahead of the new Championship season.
Donald will hold on to a reduced 19 per cent shareholding in Sunderland but Methven will formally sever ties with the club a month after their promotion out of League One with a play-off win over Wycombe Wanderers. Sartori, an ally of Louis-Dreyfus and a director of French club AS Monaco, has increased his stake to 30 per cent.
“Governance remains unchanged,” said a club statement.
Donald and Methven took control of Sunderland in 2018 after striking a deal with previous owner Ellis Short, the US businessman.
Their reign initially began with promise in League One but a failure to win promotion soon saw their popularity dwindle among supporters.
The shares held by Donald and Methven have been up for sale throughout 2022 and led to talks with a cryptocurrency group known as The Fans Together last month.
Louis-Dreyfus initially responded by saying “any transfer of shares must not compromise the club’s integrity” but he has now resolved the matter by upping his own financial involvement.
Louis-Dreyfus is the EFL’s youngest chairman at the age of 24 and is the son of Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, head of the Louis-Dreyfus company and, according to Forbes, worth $3.5 billion. The family also own a 5 per cent stake in French club Marseilles, previously owned by Kyril’s late father, Robert.
What does this mean for Sunderland?
Clarity. Supporters felt misled when it emerged that Louis-Dreyfus owned a smaller stake than the previous owners combined, with Louis-Dreyfus issuing an apology when meeting with fans in March.
Louis-Dreyfus said his three fellow shareholders had been financially committed to the club but there has been discomfort that 59 per cent of the club was effectively owned by the old regime.
Sartori’s 20 per cent stake, it was argued, effectively gave control to his family friend Louis-Dreyfus but the pair’s purchases now give them a combined 81 per cent of the club.
What has Louis-Dreyfus had to say?
“Today marks an important step as we continue to rebuild Sunderland AFC. Following the 2021-22 season, it was the intention of Juan and I to ensure the ongoing speculation relating to the Club’s shareholding was addressed as soon as possible.
“Our ownership group has been consolidated and there will be no further sale of shares to a third-party buyer. We remain committed to our strategy of delivering long-term success and sustainability and together, alongside our dedicated staff and loyal supporters, I believe we can now move forward as one unified football club.”
(Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)