AFTER ploughing over £10million into Swindon Town over the course of the past five years, Andrew Black feels the time is right to step away from the club.
The Betfair co-founder, who came onto the County Ground board as part of the consortium which saved the club from impending liquidation in 2008, revealed to the Advertiser that dealing with the stress of bankrolling the business for a prolonged period of time has had an adverse effect on his health.
Now Black is ready to hand the reins over to a new owner, as he looks to offload a large chunk of his 98 per cent controlling stake, and several potential investors have already made themselves known.
Having kept Town afloat half-a-decade ago, Black has gone on to fund the play-off push of 2009/10 and the League Two title charge in 2011/12, as well as handing the Robins the financial foundation from which they were able to bounce back from relegation from League One less than two years ago.
However, the 49-year-old has never been a big football fan - with horse racing his sport of choice - and he has become something of a reluctant owner in recent months as other members of the original group which took charge of Swindon in 2008 cut their ties with the club.
By his own admission, Black has not enjoyed the day to day running of Town and, after making substantial contributions to the Robins’ survival, he is preparing to step away. A proposed sale of the club in the summer fell through and Black pumped in further cash in November to lift Swindon out of embargo.
Black admitted that administration remains a possibility, should Town fail to secure a new owner in the necessary timeframe. It is understood that doubts remain over how the club will be funded in February.
However, he stressed that it was a worst-case scenario that no one associated with the club wishes to go through.
Black said: “It has been affecting my stress levels and I feel as though it is the right time for me to move on.
“I didn’t sleep well last night and I haven’t slept well for weeks, the last two holidays I have had I spent most of the time stressing about Swindon.
“I’ve come to a conclusion in my mind that it is time to get out. There’s enough noise and buyers are there.
“We’re staying positive. We don’t want to put the club into administration, that is the last thing anyone wants. It is a painful process and we wouldn’t want that to happen. Administration is something I desperately don’t want to do.
“The message is that we are looking for a new owner of the club and I feel it is the right time to move on. I was close to selling the club in the summer but it didn’t happen, now I feel it is right.
“I want to see it settled properly. I am not interested in leaving behind a car crash.”
The Advertiser understands that there could be up to seven potential buyers currently discussing the possibility of taking control at the County Ground, and the Robins are set to bring in accountants with specialist knowledge to assist in the process of due diligence.
One interested party is believed to be headed by an unnamed individual who has worked in property development within the football industry, while it is understood that Paolo Di Canio’s agent Phil Spencer had considered forming a consortium of his own but is now concentrating on finding a new buyer elsewhere.
The Adver has learnt that Black is not necessarily looking to sell all of his 98 per cent shareholding in the club, but is keen to be rid of his majority shareholder tag.
Any new investor would have to be happy to take on a significant wage bill at Town, believed to amount to around £250,000 a month.