Pride Park, the home of Derby County, has been acquired by Clowes Developments, with the local property group also confirming it will table an offer to purchase the embattled English League One football club.
The announcement today (Friday) will, in the immediate future, allow Derby to commence the 2022-23 season after Clowes issued an interim loan to the club allowing it to operate whilst a takeover deal is concluded.
Clowes said it has successfully purchased the company that owned Pride Park from Mel Morris. Pride Park’s ownership status was last month said to be the only impediment to Derby’s takeover after it was given conditional approval by the English Football League (EFL).
US businessman Chris Kirchner exchanged contracts on a takeover of the club with the joint administrators, Quantuma, who said the sale would be completed on condition of the stadium being sold, approval from the EFL and receiving secured creditor consent.
However, Kirchner pulled out of the deal on June 13, again placing Derby’s future in doubt. Derby has been in administration since September, with the 21-point deduction being levelled against the club for breaching EFL financial fair play (FFP) rules ultimately leading to its relegation to League One from the Championship last season.
Pride Park has been owned by Derby’s former owner Morris, who placed the club into administration in September 2021, and acquired the stadium from the club for £80m (€93.3m/$98.4m) through another company he owns.
Derby purchased Pride Park in an effort to comply with FFP regulations, but the deal proved controversial with some rival clubs feeling the move took advantage of the rules. Information of the deal was disclosed in the club’s accounts for the 2017-18 financial year, when Derby posted a profit of £14.6m to comply with FFP regulations.
Clowes said it completed the purchase of Pride Park on June 17, but stated that all parties agreed to keep the transaction confidential until the loan agreement was complete, along with other developments.
David Clowes, chairman of Clowes Developments, led the negotiations and said: “With a deadline looming and the start of the next season getting closer, we needed to do something.
“As a local and established property company, purchasing the stadium seemed the obvious first step. Secondly, as a proud Derby supporter, it was inconceivable to me that the club was at risk of falling away. We’ve worked tirelessly behind the scenes on the stadium purchase and loan agreement to be able to get the club going again in time for the next season.
“Players, staff and fans needed some good news, and we are delighted to play a part in delivering that.”
Quantuma confirmed Clowes’ loan will allow Derby to continue to trade, adding that it “looks forward to continuing positive discussions” about the takeover.
Clowes Developments added: “It must be recognised that great business comes from handling transactions with respect and an open mind.
“We are very happy to have been able to resolve the issues relating to the ground and are pleased to be in a unique position to help get the club get ready for the next season. We have made sound professional relationships to date which we hope will continue to prosper from here on out.”