Notts County owner Alan Hardy says new buyers will take club to the Championship
Notts County owner Alan Hardy believes the club’s sale will be agreed within a month, with the buyers possessing the funds to take the Magpies to the Championship.
Speaking to Press Association Sport, Hardy said he has received two offers for the club, despite it propping up League Two and facing a winding-up petition for unpaid tax.
The first offer was made last Friday by a UK-based group that has already visited Meadow Lane and is due to meet Hardy in the coming days, while the second arrived on Saturday from a group “based outside of Europe”.
The second group is being advised by Charter House Corporate Partners boss Terry Pritchard, a hugely experienced football deal-maker.
It is understood he has been approached by a third interested group this week, although they have yet to make a formal offer.
Hardy said he was sure the two main groups would pass the English Football League’s owners and directors test, with neither put off by County’s precarious position.
“They’ve both said it’s a journey we’re on, and both have said what they want to do is get to the Championship,” he said.
“Both have the funds to do that. One proof of funds I have seen had £900million in the bank.
“They both know they’re in the hunt and at some point I’ll offer exclusivity to one but it’s not just about the money, they’ve both hit that mark.
“It’s about what they’ll do with the club, how much investment will you put in, what does the journey look like.
“The talks have been really positive and I think it could all be wrapped up within a month.”
It was a journey Hardy started in January 2017, when he rescued Notts County from an earlier HM Revenue and Customs winding-up petition.
In the two years since, County have avoided relegation, been beaten in a play-off semi-final, are on their third manager in that period and signed numerous players but with 11 games to go find themselves five points adrift of safety.
Hardy’s interior design company, Paragon, that provided a loan to pay off County’s debts when he took charge, and that he spent more than 30 years building up, has since fallen apart due to his focus on the club.
“This is the toughest period of my life, ever,” he said.
“I spent 33 years building Paragon and it was sold for diddly squat on Monday. Two and a half years ago I was offered £25million for it!”
The offer came from a venture capital firm who wanted Hardy to continue running the business for three years before they sold it.
Not wanting to be tied in for so long, a deal was reached whereby Hardy would appoint a new CEO to run Paragon while he focused on County. If the business was on track a year later, the sale would proceed.
“I brought in the new CEO a week before Notts County needed rescuing – all the stars were aligned! But he comes in and the company goes through the floor,” he explained.
“To say I was distracted is an understatement. You can talk about taking your eye off the ball. I took my eye off the pitch.”
There remains the issue of the £6.5million secured loan Paragon made to County to pay off old debts and fund the £3m playing budget.
Hardy has assuaged fans’ concerns regarding the loan and the most recent winding-up petition. The former is based on a formal agreement over 10 years that will be picked up by the club’s new owners, with the latter to be settled shortly.