KNIGHTS chairman Brian McGuigan says it remains to be seen if a proposed syndicate of local businessmen can raise the funds necessary to take over Newcastle’s struggling NRL franchise.
Since last week’s announcement that the NRL had effectively come up empty after a three-month quest to sell the Knights, news has emerged of a consortium of “concerned individuals” based in the Hunter who have kicked off negotiations with the governing body.
Their plan is to form a joint venture that would rely heavily on community involvement, hence providing the Novocastrian faithful with a chance to regain – at least partially – ownership of the club they relinquished in March, 2011, with the historic vote that ratified Nathan Tinkler’s takeover.
McGuigan said he was optimistic the consortium’s proposal “has got legs” and featured business people of “great experience’’.
But he added that it was still very much in the conceptual stages and would have to overcome significant logistical hurdles, in particular attracting other investors.
“The good thing about the consortium is that it is of Newcastle origin,’’ McGuigan told the Herald.
“That, for me, fulfils a primary requirement. However, I am a little concerned about the capacity of the idea to raise quite a bit of money from a number of different people … we’ve got to make sure the people have adequate availability of money should we get into any issues.’’
It is understood the syndicate’s members include multi-millionaires who are willing to contribute towards start-up capital. But McGuigan said they were still banking on “a major contribution” from other sources.
“I just wonder whether there are enough people of enough dedication in the community at large,’’ McGuigan said.
“There would have to be a period of fund raising to put it on the map.
“There are key people in the syndicate, and I won’t mention names because it’s private and confidential, but those people are prudent and able business people.
“But whether they have the capacity to get enough shareholders into their proposal is perhaps the main concern about their bid.’’
McGuigan said it might take several months for the would-be syndicate to verify whether or not their plan was viable. He said “it was one of the late bids that came in, and therefore needed a bit more time for the NRL to explore it.
“Their proposal, while a broad brush, needs to be better defined and organised, and the NRL needs to look at it first, and then the rest of us need to look at it thereafter.
“I would say that, while it seems as though it’s possible, you don’t really know until you set the ball in motion and see whether the people are out there who might support it.’’
In the meantime, McGuigan said the NRL will “continue to look at whatever [rival] proposals come up, if they think they’ve got legs’’.
Of the 17 parties from Australia and abroad who expressed interest in buying the Knights when the NRL called for tenders in August, two remain under consideration.
Their initial bids were rejected because they did not fulfill all the criteria. But the NRL has asked them to reapply if they can address their perceived shortcomings.
“There are still two groups who are interested in pursuing it,’’ McGuigan said.
After Tinkler’s tumultuous three-year tenure ended in June, 2014, the NRL has bankrolled the Knights.
The governing body is willing to continue doing so indefinitely but has always maintained that this is merely a stopgap measure.