Nathan Tinkler has offered $100 million to buy the Newcastle Knights, guaranteeing $10m in sponsorship for the NRL club every year for the next ten years.
He will also erase their $3million debt in return for the club’s license, turning one of the most cash-strapped clubs in the league into one of the richest.
Knights chairman Rob Tew rejected an offer by Tinkler to buy the club for $10m two months ago, but they have met for further discussions twice in the past few weeks.
Tew said last night he will take Tinkler’s offer to the board tomorrow night.
”Our responsibility is to act in the best interest of our members,” Tew said. ”I’m not sure this is the best proposal. We have had a number of interests since Nathan made the last offer public through the media.”
Tew rejected the original offer of $7 million per year and demanded Tinkler guarantee the club’s projected sponsorship income for the next decade.
The coal mining magnate is worth an estimated $600 million.
Tinkler’s new offer will be a contribution of $30 million in capital over the next ten years if current sponsorship remains unchanged, or a $100 million investment if the Knights lose all their sponsorship after privatisation.
It’s highly unlikely that would happen.
According to Tinkler Sports Group executive chairman Ken Edwards, they have fulfilled all the Knights requirements.
He says the increase in sponsorship is not the full extent of their commitment to the club, whose last Premiership win was in 2001.
”We are not capping ourselves at those numbers,” he said. ”We will spend what it takes, within reason.
We have a business model in place we believe is achievable.
The $10m is a number the Knights have asked us to guarantee. We agreed with their request as with the other changes we have made to the offer to make it acceptable.”
The club has been investigating privatisation – full and partial – for several years and have been in discussions with Tinkler for months.
”When we went public with the last offer, the reason for doing that was to get some feedback from the community that we were on the right track,” Edwards said.
”Clearly we got a strong message from the community, and the Knights board got a strong message from the community, that this was a model that people wanted to see advanced and wanted to see in place.
”We are not aware of any reason why this should be kept from members, and we understand it is the members who will make a decision on this.
That is the group we want to present the offer to and explain ourselves fully to. If the board can’t agree to do that by Friday then there is nothing more we can do with the board.
It will be really then up to the members . If enough members believe in it, it is up to them to call a special meeting.”
He says Tinkler has done all he can and will do to convince the club to accept his offer.
"Nathan and [Knights chairman] Robbie Tew have shaken hands.
"It’s a matter now of waiting to see where it goes."
Tinkler says this is his last offer for the club, and if rejected, he will “walk away” to concentrate on other interests.
Four months ago, he saved A League club the Newcastle Jets from an untimely death, when they couldn’t reach their short or long term obligations and almost had to leave the league.
"My family and I have been supporters of the Newcastle Jets for years and we are delighted to be able to step in and support the club for the City of Newcastle,” Tinkler said at the time.
“I have no desire to own a football club but provide a nursery for the development of the game for the thousands of young football players in the Hunter region.
I urge all of the Hunter community to get behind the Jets and show their support by showing up for the games and becoming members of the club.”
He wants to introduce the same community-based not-for-profit model at the Knights.
By Friday, Tinkler wants the board of director’s to inform him if they have agreed to call an extraordinary general meeting to take the offer to Knights members.
A 75 per cent vote in favour of the privatisation would be necessary for the deal to go ahead.
Tinkler Sports Group says the offer will be of great benefit to the club, the fans and for the region.
”This is not for profit in the context that if any money is made it is ploughed back into the development of junior rugby league in the Hunter region and to the Knights,” Edwards said.
”For members it means … a club which is structured properly and will have the funds to compete on and off the field with the other big clubs in the country.”
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