THE takeover of Doncaster Rovers by One Direction pop star Louis Tomlinson and John Ryan is set to be completed this morning.
Lawyers worked frantically behind the scenes last night to broker a successful conclusion and despite suggestions the deal was in the balance, a deal now appears to have been struck.
A press conference is now expected to take place at Wembley at 6pm later today where One Direction play the first of three sell-out concerts to formally announce the takeover.
High-level meetings aimed at finalising the substantial multi-million pound deal took place in Leeds yesterday between representatives of former Rovers chairman Ryan’s fellow major shareholders Terry Bramall and Dick Watson and those representing Ryan and life-long Rovers fan Tomlinson.
After intensive negotiations, a successful conclusion now appears to have been reached, with Ryan and Tomlinson becoming co-chairmen.
Tomlinson, with extensive commitments in the UK, Europe and across the globe with his band, would be a ‘silent partner’ with Ryan effectively running the club on his and the singer’s behalf.
Ryan and Tomlinson, brought up close to Rovers’ former home of Belle Vue in the suburb of Bessacarr, are thought to have first discussed joining forces and launching a bid to take over the club around six weeks ago when secret talks begun.
Tomlinson’s passion for Rovers is such that he made a much-publicised appearance as a substitute for the club’s development squad in a game against near-neighbours Rotherham United in February, with over 4,000 tickets sold for the game.
This came after he ‘signed’ for the club on non-contract terms last August and was given a squad number – having previously played a charity game for his hometown club.
After 15 years at the Rovers helm, Ryan dramatically resigned as both a director and chairman immediately prior to the club’s South Yorkshire derby against Barnsley at Oakwell on November 9 last year.
His decision was prompted by a bitter disagreement with Bramall for several months about the future direction of the club.
A boardroom split ensued between Ryan and Bramall and Watson following the failure to reach agreement with Irish-based consortium Sequentia Capital to take over after they first approached the club last summer with Ryan bringing them to the table.
Ryan labelled the offer from Sequentia, with reported backing from an anonymous wealthy tycoon in Belize, as the ‘deal of the century’ and claimed a number of then top-flight stars in Richard Dunne, Stephen Ireland and Shay Given had agreed to join if the deal went through – with others lined up.
But getting the deal over the line never transpired, with manager Paul Dickov’s summer transfer activity effectively on hold.
Dickov is now awaiting much-needed clarity again regarding a club takeover issue before embarking on his summer transfer plans in earnest.
A number of out-of-contract players who he is keen to keep have been offered new deals, but on reduced terms, with the fear that a number could leave unless the takeover situation is successfully resolved.
It is understood that the playing budget for the club under the new owners would be extremely competitive and aimed at Rovers’ pushing for promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking.
While all League One sides are bound by what they can spend on players’ wages by the Salary Cost Management Protocol – which currently limits spending to 60 per cent of a club’s turnover – the financial spin-offs from any association of Tomlinson with Rovers would be likely to potentially increase their financial wherewithal.
Despite stepping down from official duties with Rovers last autumn, Ryan retained around his shareholding of around 23 per cent, the same amount owned by construction magnate Bramall and Watson.
Watson has reportedly been urged by his family to put his health before Rovers matters, with the Scot undergoing successful open heart surgery last month and currently recuperating.
With Watson taking a back seat, Bramall has taken the lead regarding negotiations and is believed to have spoken with Ryan a few weeks ago – following a thawing in their relations, which deteriorated after Ryan’s exit from the club last November.
Musician Tomlinson started out as an actor, before getting his big break in the television show The X Factor in 2010 where the 22-year-old was part of boy band One Direction. The group only finished third in the contest, but went on to huge success.
All parties were unavailable for comment last night, with the delicately poised takeover expected to now be officially announced today.