Sven-Goran Eriksson at Notts County? Really?
Yes, in just three years, Sven has gone from England manager to Director of Football at a League Two club, via Manchester City and a disastrous spell in charge of Mexico — albeit, Notts County are a club with a proud history as the world’s oldest professional football club, fallen on hard times. Sven described the job as the “the biggest challenge I have faced”. Somehow, with a straight face, Sven added that “I’m not here for money, I am here for the challenge.”
How the hell can a League Two team afford Sven?
Notts County were taken over by a mysterious Middle Eastern investment consortium last month. Their new ownership, Munto Finance, is a subsidiary of QADBAK Investment Fund, which according to Chairman Peter Trembling “consists of a number of investors based in the Middle East.” Little else is known about Munto or QADBAK — neither entity even has a website.
Who are Munto/QADBAK’s backers?
Munto was created by QADBAK solely for the takeover, and is registered in the British Virgin Islands. When asked to reveal the names of the investors behind it by supporters before the takeover, the Notts County board cited confidentiality reasons for refusing to answer.
Munto’s public face as members of the Notts County board are new CEO and Chairman Peter Trembling and Peter Willett of the Al Thani Investment Group — who are likely the primary investor in QADBAK.
So what’s Al Thani Investment Group all about?
Peter Willett is listed as the Executive Vice President, Development of Thani Investments, based out of the United Arab Emirates, an “Investment firm with interest in oil, mining, power, and real estate sectors; property developers.” Abdulla Saeed Al Thani is the Dubai-based oil tycoon behind the fund, and the mastermind of an outrageous £1 billion golf course project, Dubai Golf City, a $1.8 billion project spread over 55 million sq. ft.
Al Thani is a first cousin of Sheikh Zayed, the late president of the United Arab Emirates, and a key member of the royal family’s oil dynasty. The key word here is oil.
So who is Peter Trembling?
Notts County’s new CEO and Chairman has just eleven months experience in English football as Commercial Director for Everton. Before that, he worked in the banking industry, so it’s no surprise he was the genius behind this charming scam at Everton to get fans to pay to use a debit card. Seems to know a lot of rich people, not clear if he knows anything about football.
Did the supporters approve of the takeover?
Yes. Notts County were previously majority-owned by their Supporters Trust; they voted overwhelmingly to gift their shares to Munto. Judging from their forums, Notts County fans seem to feel they have nothing to lose and that it was time to “do or die” by handing over control to Munto. The support for the deal of long-term board member John Mountney seems to have swayed many as well.
The club’s long decline began in the 1990s, before the Trust assumed control, but it’s clear Trust management did not find a way to move the club forward on or off the pitch. All the same, it’s a surprise supporters didn’t demand to at least know more about the backing of Munto before handing over control — they seem to have snatched off Munto’s hand out of fear they’d be left penniless without them. It’s understandable that years of frustration left supporters desperate for a fairy godmother, but we’ve seen too often these stories rarely end in fairytales; and perhaps the Trust could have played hardball to ensure the club’s future had more guarantees.
Either way, welcome to the rollercoaster. How long will Sven last?