SUNDERLAND are in advanced discussions with a group of American investors that could result in Stewart Donald relinquishing his majority ownership of the club in the next few weeks.
Glenn Fuhrman, John Phelan and Robert Platek, the principals of MSD Capital, are set to inject their own personal money into the Black Cats, with Michael Dell, the billionaire founder of Dell Technologies, set to be a passive minority investor.
MSD Capital is an investment vehicle established in 1998 to manage the assets of Dell and his family, with the business boasting an investment portfolio that spans a range of different sectors.
Dell established Dell Technologies, the multinational technology firm best known for its association with personal computers, and is ranked by Forbes as the 25th richest person in the world, with a personal fortune estimated at $34.3bn (£28bn).
While Dell will effectively take a back-seat role supporting his long-term business partners, Fuhrman, Phelan and Platek are expected to assume a more hands-on role in the strategic running of the club if their takeover is approved.
The group are understood to have started a formal process of due diligence, but are yet to complete the Football League’s ownership tests that are a requirement of any takeover process.
They have agreed to a proposal that would see Donald and Charlie Methven retain some of their current shares and continue as directors of the club, and have backed the current owners’ strategy for financial stabilisation and future growth.
The group were initially approached by Methven, who boasts strong business links in the United States, and are adamant they want to be involved in a long-term recovery project rather than an attempt at a quick fix.
While their wealth would be an obvious help to Sunderland’s attempts to win promotion from League One, and eventually from the Championship, their ability to invest in the playing squad would be constrained by the Football League’s Financial Fair Play regulations.
Nevertheless, having spent most of the summer looking for outside investment, Donald and Methven appear to have made a major breakthrough that should cement Sunderland’s ongoing financial viability.
Speaking on the Roker Rapport podcast last week, Donald said: “We’ve got a preferred partner, someone that we think can really do what we’ve talked about doing and come with us to take the club to the next level.
“I hope that we can get the deal over the line because I think it’s a hugely exciting deal for all the right reasons – for taking the football club on, as we have said we wanted to and in the way that we want to.
“We don’t want people who talk a good game, say they have got money and then don’t back it up, or people who have money but don’t know how to spend it.
“We want it structured, sustainable, and the people we are talking to are talking long, long-term investment, long-term plan, not built on sand, and I’m hopeful that as much as anything now, that we have got to persuade them to come with us on this journey.”
Donald held extensive discussions with American-based businessman Mark Campbell earlier in the summer, but the talks broke down before an agreement was reached.
The former Eastleigh boss has always conceded he does not have the personal wealth to finance a return to the Premier League, but is keen to remain heavily involved over the next few years.
Donald bought Sunderland for around £40m last May, with former owner Ellis Short writing off more than £100m of debt to enable to takeover to take place.