Knights, Jets say Tinkler's committed

THE Knights and Jets said yesterday owner Nathan Tinkler remained unwavering in his commitment to Newcastle’s rugby league and soccer teams despite his attempts to sell his horse-racing empire.

The Newcastle Herald reported yesterday that Tinkler tried to raise $200million in June by selling his Hunter Valley-based Patinack Farm racing and breeding operation to Qatari royal Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, the owner of last year’s Melbourne Cup winner, Dunaden.

About 350 Patinack thoroughbreds, estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars, will be sold at a reduction sale at the Gerry Harvey-owned Magic Millions on the Gold Coast in October.

The Knights and Jets are operated by Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group company.

Tinkler spokesman Tim Allerton issued a statement yesterday on behalf of Knights chief executive Matt Gidley and Jets counterpart Robbie Middleby, who said the mining and sporting magnate would ensure the region’s football flagships remained strong and viable.

‘‘Following media reports today about Patinack Farm’s sale of horses as part of its thoroughbred breeding program, there has been some enquiries about potential implications for the Newcastle Knights and Newcastle Jets,’’ the statement said.

‘‘This decision to sell the horses has no impact on either club and Nathan Tinkler’s commitment to both is unwavering.

‘‘The Tinkler Group acquired both clubs that were in financial crises, extinguished their existing, heavy debt levels and invested considerable funds in them to continue operations and succeed.

‘‘That program remains in place, as is Mr Tinkler’s commitment to the Hunter region, to ensure we have two strong football clubs of which the entire Hunter region can be proud.’’

Knights chairman Paul Harragon and Knights members club chairman Peter Corcoran did not return calls from the Herald.

Jets advisory board chairman Ray Baartz, interstate on holiday, said he was unaware of the developments concerning Tinkler’s racing empire, and declined to comment.

The Herald reported on August 8 that the Knights members club and HSG had agreed to change critical dates in the ownership agreement signed one year earlier, so the members club could still access the $20million bank guarantee that underpins the agreement.

According to that document, dated August 5 last year, HSG must present on December 15 a statement from their auditor to the members club board detailing matters including trading capital, HSG’s top-up to meet its annual guaranteed sponsorship of $10million, and funding for the Newcastle Rugby League and for junior development.

The members club then has 20 business days from a January 1 trigger date to access the guarantee, or exercise its buyback option, if the club believes HSG has not met its financial obligations.

HSG and the members club have agreed in principle to change the reporting date to February 15 and the trigger date to March 1, but the agreement is yet to be formally amended and signed by HSG and members club representatives.

The bank guarantee reduces from $20million to $10.3million from January 1 next year, then increases annually from January 1 in accordance with the Consumer Price Index for the remaining eight years of the agreement.

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