New Dundee United chairman has revealed why he chose to buy Dundee United in a 1,500-word Q&A interview.
The transcript of the telephone interview, published on Dundee United’s official website, reveals a historic connection. Here it is, in full, below.
Congratulations on your purchase of Dundee United. I guess the obvious first question is why Dundee United?
My son Scott and I have been looking for investment in European football for some time. We looked at a lot of different options, and we looked at this particular club, the club’s history, the support of the fans, the previous success and rich history.
The Irish history appealed because we are of Irish descent. We know the Club had financial issues and that makes it difficult for any Club to be successful.
For the Club staff to work within that scenario where there is financial difficulty, you are hampered by that. Decisions are then based on where you are at rather than the best interests of the Club. We felt it was a sleeping giant and we could come in with our advisors and use our business experience to make a difference and get Dundee United back where it needs to be.
How much did buying United cost you?
I will not answer that question directly but what I will say is I have seen some numbers thrown about out there and I wish we were buying it for as little as that! It comes to a combination of money paid to shareholders, money put in for the retirement of debt and a commitment to working capital to ensure funds going forward to do what we need to do to be successful.
How long has buying a sporting opportunity in Europe been an interest or passion for you?
It has been there for several years. Scott’s passion for European football goes back much longer than that. It was his passion that rubbed off on me. His English team is Newcastle United, and we caught a match a few years back and had a lot of fun. In the last year, we really took the interest seriously.
Are you looking to make money from this deal?
Yes. This isn’t a hobby for us, and we expect to make money long-term but, let me say, for that to happen we need to be competing in the Ladbrokes Premiership on a continual basis.
How much do you know about Dundee United and Scottish football?
I know a ton. We spent a tremendous amount of time and money doing our due diligence. Legally, on the business side and on the performance side. We know a lot about Dundee United, and we have researched Scottish football, and we know where we are and where we want to go. We have an excellent plan to get where we want to go.
Do you expect to own Dundee United for several years?
Yes. I expect to own the team long-term.
What would you say to reassure Dundee United fans about the long-term future of the Club?
I guess what I would say is based on the due diligence conducted, spending a lot of time and money researching, we know what we are getting into. This isn’t just a passing fancy where we are going to get in and discover something that would create any issues for us. We are confident about what we are getting into and where we want to go. We would not invest in the Club if we weren’t convinced about the long-term future of the Club.
How does this purchase affect the structure of the Club?
Mike Martin has stepped down as Chairman, and I would like to recognise the work Mike has done during the process. He is a big fan of the Club, and he has steadied the ship since his appointment in March.
As new owners, we are going to take it in a different direction. We plan to appoint a Managing Director who will be in charge of running the Club and he will be responsible for the aspects of the commercial and business side of the Club.
We will also have a Sporting Director who will be responsible for all the performance aspects of the Club. He will work with Robbie Neilson efficiently and effectively from the Club’s standpoint.
We will be making some announcements in the very near future regarding this.
What type of Chairman would you describe yourself?
So I’ll be the Chairman and my son Scott will be the quasi-Vice Chairman. He will sit on the board with me. From a Club perspective, people can expect that I’ll be interested in all that is going on; I will be very supportive of what’s going on and who is doing it; I will be available whenever, but I will not be a micro-manager. We will have what we think are the right persons in the right positions to be a successful Club and I will absolutely expect results.
From a fan perspective, I will be a low profile Chairman and fans will hear more from the Club leadership in the new structure than they will from me.
Do you plan to work remotely?
Yes. I will work remotely and travel over as much as possible. Scott and I have talked about this. We will have board meetings that we will come over for, but we will try to tag-team and come across at separate times, so at least one of us is here as often as possible.
How can you get a feel for the Club if you aren’t over in Dundee?
With today’s technology it is almost as if you are over there but having the right people in the right positions is what matters. Jimmy Fyffe and David Dorward are still on the board, and we anticipate one or two other people to be on the board from the Dundee area. It is essential for the fans to know we will definitely have local representation and they will be in constant communications.
There are American owners at Dundee FC, also within the city. So let me ask this directly. Do you have any plans to merge the clubs?
No. None whatsoever.
Do you have any links at all with the owners of Dundee FC?
No, I have never met them, and quite frankly I do not even know who they are.
Do you have any links to the previous owners of the Club including Stephen Thompson?
No, I have heard his name, but I have never met or had a discussion with Stephen Thompson. Obviously, I have met Mike Martin and Jimmy Fyffe.
You have an interest in a Baseball team. What experience have you gained that will stand you in good stead for a football team based in Dundee?
I believe firmly, that a person needs to know their limitations. As Chairman and owner that is the situation. As far as performance of the squad aspect of the Club is concerned, I expect to be consulted with, I will be involved and interested in decisions, but in reality, I will defer the main decisions to those that know the game much better than I do. As I said previously, I’m not going to micro-manage. I expect to be much more involved in the business side.
Have you spoken to the Head Coach and can you confirm that you see him leading the team forward?
So when I travelled across recently, I was introduced to Robbie, but quite frankly I don’t even think he knew who I was! I just happened to be a visitor who was introduced. That’s been the extent so far, but in answer to your question, I absolutely do believe he is the man to lead the team forward. He has made a positive impact since his arrival, and he has proven himself with Hearts before.
Will he be given financial backing to help in the task of getting the Club back into the Ladbrokes Premiership?
I guess what I’d say is that it is not an open chequebook, but we absolutely intend to invest the necessary funds to get us into a position to get promoted. Equally important is when we get up we stay there.
You will appreciate supporters will be curious and apprehensive about motives. How do you plan to communicate with fans of Dundee United?
Talk is cheap. What I would say to our supporters is judge us by our actions and, even more importantly judge us on our results. Obviously, due to the structure that I’ve discussed earlier, we will be implementing changes, and the fans will hear from the Club leadership rather than me.
What targets do you intend to set for the team and the Club as a whole?
Let me answer it this way. We are looking at short-term and longer-term targets. The short-term objective is simple – promotion to the Premiership. We expect it is this year absolutely. We need to be United and have the one vision, – success – and get to the Premiership. The timing of the transaction is excellent. We have a transfer window shortly in January, and this will allow us to get with Robbie and figure out the team, and if we need to make some changes, we are ready and willing to do that.
Longer-term, maybe three to five years, we need to be competing in the top six of the Premiership. We want to be competing in European competition and challenging in the cups. That’s our ultimate goal.