Sunderland have announced that an agreement has been reached with a prospective new owner, Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, the son of the former Marseille owner Robert Louis-Dreyfus, and is set to acquire Stewart Donald’s controlling interest in the club.
Donald accepted an offer from the 22-year-old Frenchman in November but the deal has taken six weeks to complete and is still pending approval from the EFL. If that is granted, Louis-Dreyfus will become chairman and majority shareholder of the League One club.
“First, I would like to thank Stewart Donald for his integrity and reasonableness over the last three months, which has led to me having the opportunity to take a controlling stake in Sunderland AFC,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “We respectfully await the EFL’s approval for this transaction.
“In acquiring Sunderland, I understand the responsibility that’s placed upon me as the custodian of the club’s future. We want to create a team that is entertaining to watch … reconnecting the team with its fanbase, whose support will be so vital to our success.
“In the midst of a global pandemic, we should all be aware of the difficult situation the club is currently in and the challenges we face in the months to come. However, if we all play our parts, I firmly believe we can restore Sunderland to the top tier of English football and I can’t wait to get started.”
Donald, who led a consortium to buy out Ellis Short in April 2018, said: “It’s been no secret that I have been looking for some time to find the right person to take Sunderland forward. However, even though it is a matter of public record that some of those bidders offered me more money, I felt that they offered less to the club and to the community.
“From the early meetings with Kyril, his family and advisers, I have been greatly impressed with their knowledge and understanding.”
The club said that a final decision from the EFL is not due until mid-January and they will make no further comment until then. Sunderland are currently 11th in League One and recently appointed Lee Johnson as their manager, replacing Phil Parkinson.
“Many will be aware of my family connections to the industry and, in acquiring Sunderland AFC, I understand the responsibility that’s placed upon me as the custodian of the club’s future,” Louis-Dreyfuss added.
His family founded the Swiss-based Louis-Dreyfus group in the 19th century and owned Marseille for 10 years before selling it in 2016.
Louis-Dreyfus, along with his twin brother, is one of three heirs to his father’s fortune after his death in 2009 and is estimated to have a trust fund worth more than £2bn. His mother remains a minority shareholder in Marseille.