Fears of collapse in the Derby County takeover are increasing after the expected buyer, Chris Kirchner, has been unable to deliver the funds to close the deal at ‘multiple’ meetings in the last week.
The American entrepreneur told fans on Twitter that Bank Holidays in the US and UK had complicated the process.
But despite his reassurance, parties close to the deal have told Sportsmail they are now concerned it may not proceed at all, after financial close was not achieved on Friday and again on Monday.
Chris Kirchner was expected to become Derby County’s new owner at the end of May
There have been ‘multiple suggested completion times and he has missed all of them’ said one source.
‘We are waiting. Is it today or tomorrow…?’ the source added. ‘It is a very strange situation. It is a completely unacceptable situation.’
Previously, the EFL said it expected the purchase to be completed by May 31.
Rescuing Derby County from administration has been protracted and painful, with supporters suffering repeated bouts of despair during eight long months, which also saw the club suffer a 21-point deduction and relegation to League One.
The club went into administration last September after former owner, Mel Morris, overspent in his pursuit of promotion to the Premier League. The East Midlands outfit was left with huge debts of around £60M, plus other money owed to Morris.
Derby County went into administration last year and it’s been a long hard struggle to escape it
Any buyer for the club has had to not only address the debt to bring the Rams out of administration, while meeting EFL insolvency rules, but also do a deal over Pride Park, which remains in the ownership of Morris.
Kirchner appeared to have succeeded where others had failed. His proposal to settle the debts was accepted by the administrator, Quantuma, and he received the blessing of the EFL.
The EFL gave Kirchner ‘conditional approval’ to acquire Derby County in mid-May, at which point it asked to see proof of funds and appeared to be satisfied.
‘Final approval is subject to Mr Kirchner completing on the Asset Purchase Agreement and a deal being finalised in respect of a lease on the stadium by 31 May 2022,’ added the EFL at the time.
Derby fans have stayed united but there is growing concern over delays in completing a deal
It is understood the condition relating to the stadium has now been met. Local company, Clowes Developments, whose chairman, David Clowes, describes himself as a loyal supporter of Derby County, agreed to buy Pride Park off Morris and lease it to Kirchner.
Sportsmail has been told that deal between Clowes and Morris is signed and the money is in place. All that remains is for Kirchner to put his money on the table and the takeover can be finalised, say sources.
But it is claimed lawyers for all parties have been ready to sign and exchange contracts on several occasions only to be disappointed. At the time of writing no date for a further closure meeting has been agreed only adding to the unease.
‘The administrator is going to have to make a decision on what point they say you have not come up with the money, you have not fulfilled the conditions of the deal,’ said a source.
On May 27, Kirchner tweeted ‘officially closing on Tuesday’ [May 31]. However, when that did not happen, Kirchner moved to allay fans’ concerns last Thursday [June 2].
Wayne Rooneyhas been widely praised for his management of the crisis and the football team
‘Nothing to be alarmed about,’ he tweeted. ‘End of May was chosen because of scheduling for EFL… and everyone collectively didn’t think about the 3 combined bank holidays this week.
‘Working through it and believe we have it resolved. Enjoy your weekend of celebrations.’
While Kirchner has not commented since, those close to the American’s bid insist the delay is related to logistical issues around the Bank Holidays and not to funds being unavailable.
But if Kirchner does not proceed, Sportsmail understands there are two other interested parties who are watching on and could yet swoop for the Rams.
One of them is believed to be former Newcastle United owner, Mike Ashley. Reports at the weekend claiming that Ashley reached out to Kirchner to help deliver his deal have been dismissed by those close to the process.
However, with the League One season set to start on July 30, the clock is ticking for manager Wayne Rooney to secure the players he wants to keep and bring in those he thinks can help fire the Rams back to the Championship.
Rooney, who has won widespread praise for his football – and crisis – management at Derby, but he needs a new owner in place in order to assemble a viable squad.
Rooney needs a new owner in place in order to secure a competitive squad for next season
Meanwhile, anxious fans are left scouring social media for an announcement.
‘Anyone else getting the feeling nothing will happen??’ asked concerned fan, Jamie Needham on Twitter on Tuesday.
‘Reckon Mike Ashley is holding the take over up?’ questioned supporter Dan Fowler. ‘My minds going wild with scenarios maybe. – CK shown proof of funds? Efl appove business plan? Stadium cleared? All paper work signed and money sent? No bank holidays this week?
And Ian Redfern posted: ‘If Kirchner is having this much difficulty closing a deal for #dcfc which proposes that most of the old debt repayments are kicked down the road via a 3 yr CVA, just wait until he actually has to pay said debt! Backer(s) got cold feet? Increasingly feels like frying-pan to fire.’