BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Charlie Methven has dispelled talk that Charlton Athletic’s new owners are looking to cash in quickly on the League One club.
It was confirmed a week ago that Global Football Partners had completed their takeover of the Addicks.
Methven is one of seven shareholders in GFP who have more than a five per cent stake. Americans Gabriel Brener, who had been part of a group with a controlling interest in MLS side Houston Dynamos, and Joshua Friedman understood to be the biggest backers.
Methven was part of a consortium – led by Stewart Donald – which purchased Sunderland in May 2018. Kyril Louis-Drefus acquired a controlling stake in February 2021 before buying Donald’s remaining shares this May.
Some Charlton supporters have speculated that GFP will look to ‘flip’ the SE7-based club if they win promotion and are a step closer to the Premier League.
“I understand why people will say that because it was our model at Sunderland – but that was a very different ownership group,” Methven, speaking on behalf of GFP, told the South London Press. “Stewart and me were football industry-type people. Stewart is much richer than me but, between us, we’re not that rich.
“We thought there was a way, and it proved to be true, that we and the club could benefit by getting it into better shape and by selling it on to more of a Sunderland-type profile.
“When we took it over nobody would touch it because it was losing so much money – I think people forget it was losing £26million a year at that point.
“The situation here is very different because the rest of my ownership group is very wealthy – at least the larger shareholders are – and really the increase in capital value from moving from League One to the Championship wouldn’t really be of any financial interest to them. If you look at how much they sold their MLS club for last year, it is substantial funds.
“Really this project is more about passion. In all of the shareholders’ case the amount they are paying, with probably the exception of me, is relatively modest by their own standards. This is at the risk-end of their portfolio. They have all got other successful businesses and investments that do very well – then a few things they do because they love it.
“It doesn’t mean they want to lose money. It doesn’t mean to say they are there with open chequebooks going: ‘This is great – I don’t care’. No. They are successful people and successful investors and they want to be successful. But if we were to get promoted this season, do I then envisage we would sell the club the next season? Absolutely not.
“I’m not saying no chance – because never say never. Who knows? Some guy could come over the horizon who decides his single biggest wish in life is to buy Charlton. It’s rather like owning a nice house. You don’t want to sell it but then somebody comes along and changes your mind.
“But absolutely there is no intention for that to be the case. I would put this as a five-year minimum project.
“The professional people involved in the project have given the investors an estimate of how long it is going to take the club to get to a level where it is running as it should – and that is at least three to four years.
“It’s not just about whether you can get the club promoted, it’s also the point at which you feel you can’t take it any further.
“That’s where we got to at Sunderland. We turned it around, the club was break-even, there was no debt, things were running smoothly. But once they got promoted to the Championship then myself and Stewart knew the next step had to be the Premier League. Stewart and I weren’t, on our own, wealthy enough to take it that next step.
“That really wouldn’t be the case with this ownership group where it is more broadly spread and there is plenty of capital adequacy if they decide that is what they want to do.”
Charlton made an operating loss of £10.1million in the financial accounts ending in June 2022 – reduced to £7.4m by player sales and bolt-on payments for the likes of Ademola Lookman, Nick Pope and Anfernee Dijksteel.
Asked how easy it is to reduce costs at Charlton, Methven said: “It’s nothing like on the scale of Sunderland (who had suffered back-to-back relegations from the Premier League). They still had three club chaffeurs.
“It’s actually a small, office-based staff and many of those positions are required regulatory.
“In commercial terms there are areas where they have not optimised their situation.
“My observation, as a fairly experienced League One operator, would be that Charlton’s first-team wage budget is in the top four or five in League One. That is pretty much appropriate, about where it should be.
“The issue has not been how much money they are paying footballers. Clearly the end results have not been what one would wish.
“If you looked at a pounds-per-point scale, which is how football club executives look at these things, then Charlton’s outcome would be sub-optimal. So we don’t go in there thinking there is huge underspending.
“The amount of money being spent needs to produce a better outcome, for sure, and in one or two areas – like the performance department and academy – there needs to be a bit of input as well.
“Probably there might be a little more apportionment to some transfer fees. But equally, at the same time, this is not an open chequebook approach. That is not how we, as a group, see a successful sports club as operating.
“We see it as operating in a competitive environment, being given resources to compete and then using those resources to outcompete the opposition. There are some other big clubs in the division, we’re respectful of that, and the challenge for the senior management team is to use the resources we have allocated to them to outcompete their opposition.”
Methven brokered the deal for Charlton with GFP acquiring the club through their UK subsidiary, SE7 Partners.
The initial interest in Charlton started in November before a period of exclusivity was entered into with Sandgaard in December.
SE7 Partners threatened legal action when Sandgaard broke off negotiations early in 2023 to try and do a deal with Marc Spiegel.
Communication lines re-opened when Spiegel lacked the financial backing to follow through on his proposal, GFP signing a share purchase agreement and then gaining EFL and FA approval for their takeover. So what kind of state is Charlton in?
“It’s not in the best nick and it’s not in the worst nick,” said Methven. “There are other clubs in League One, but also other divisions, that are in much worse difficulties than Charlton are. Equally there are clubs which are in better circumstances than Charlton.
“It’s our job now to move Charlton forward. Clearly other owners have also wanted to do that – and it’s how every owner starts. But football is a competitive industry. It’s not as easy as that. All owners are looking to move their football club forward.
“At the end of the season only three, or sometimes four, get promoted. It’s not a given, as I found out at Sunderland – every year we came close but it was year four that we finally managed it.
“We’re very respectful of some of the work that previous owners have done. If you look around Sparrows Lane training ground today – it’s in good nick.
“Previous owners have contributed to that set-up. The stadium is in good nick. The academy is in good nick. It’s not, by any stretch of the imagination, a basket case. But clearly as a club, every element of it will aspire to being in a better place than it currently is. I don’t think that would be casting any aspersions on anybody.
“It’s our job now to take the.best elements of what we’ve been handed over and to then move forward with those and also improve the areas that are in need of improvement.
“All we can commit to is absolute focus on continual improvement. If you go through that process of improving every element of the club, on a continual basis, in the end you will be successful. That’s something you just have to believe. That’s the process we’re excited to be about to embark on.”
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