Charlton Athletic saved from the brink – but Duchâtelet still owns The Valley

The Valley
Charlton fans now have something to celebrate

Danish-American businessman Thomas Sandgaard has bought Charlton Athletic, ending months of uncertainty about the troubled club’s future – but The Valley remains in the hands of its eccentric former owner Roland Duchâtelet, whose botched sale of the side brought it to the brink of administration.

Sandgaard has bought the club from East Street Investments (ESI), which in turn purchased it from Duchâtelet nearly a year ago. However, the ESI deal unravelled in March after a public falling-out between its principals Matt Southall and Tahnoon Nimer, with the two trading insults on social media and promised investment not appearing, contributing to its relegation last season. It also emerged that, contrary to statements at the time of sale, the pair had not bought The Valley or the club’s training ground in Sparrows Lane in New Eltham.

ESI was then “sold” to Manchester businessman Paul Elliott, however, the English Football League blocked the deal and the club’s future was then dragged through the courts. Last week, an injunction prevented the sale of ESI while the ownership wrangle was resolved. The club would have run out of money within a week if the deal had not been done; in July it was effectively been warned it risked expulsion from the league.

Floyd Road graffiti - Save CAFC, our club, not yours!
Fans had left ESI in no doubt of their feelings

Sandgaard – who owns hospital equipment company Zynex Medical – emerged as a potential bidder for the club last month, and this morning dodged the injunction by buying the club itself rather than ESI.

The Valley and Sparrows Lane, however, remain with Duchâtelet. Sandgaard said he had agreed to extend the lease on them from five to 15 years. The EFL, which had put a transfer embargo on the club, has agreed the deal.

“When I started negotiating with Duchâtelet, I wanted to buy the stadium, but the conversation quickly turned into a rental agreement and it seems for now that is the best for all parties,” he told Talksport radio. “I’m renting the stadium and training ground for 15 years and have got rid of all the weird side deals so everything’s cleaned up.”

Ownership of The Valley is a sore point with Charlton fans; not having control of The Valley led to the club’s disastrous seven-year exile from SE7 in 1985.

He added: “This is one of the best days of my life, it’s up there with when my two kids were born. The support I’ve had from fans during this whole process has been unbelievable.”

Sandgaard said on his own website: “With the club about to run out of funds this month, it was important that I moved quickly to complete the acquisition and put funds in to the club to ensure its survival.

“I have always had two passions – rock music and football. I was a bit of a nerd when I was 13 so decided to go out and buy a guitar because I loved music and wanted to be one of the cool kids – and become a rock musician. I ultimately ended up playing in lots of rock bands in the seventies and early eighties.

“My love of football started when I played at an amateur level in Denmark and then really fell in love with the English game when I watched the FA Cup finals on Danish television in the 1970s. In the last few years, I’ve reached a point financially where I can really do something like this. Four months ago, a friend asked, ‘Have you thought about owning an English football club?’ And I thought, wow, that could be one of the most positive things that I could ever be a part of.”

Charlton fans' protest
About 500 fans held a protest at The Valley five weeks ago

Fans held a protest against Elliott’s “ownership” last month, while a group invaded his solicitor Chris Farnell’s office in Hale, Greater Manchester.

Local MP Matt Pennycook said the takeover of the club was “outstanding news”, while Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe joked “a freedom of the borough is in order ASAP!”

Greenwich borough’s Conservative opposition leader Nigel Fletcher said the news was encouraging but wanted to “seek assurances on some key outstanding issues”.

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