Milan Mandaric has revealed he would not have sold Sheffield Wednesday if he did not believe incoming owner Dejphon Chansiri could end the Owls’ 15-year Premier League exile.
Mandaric, 76, rescued the Owls from financial ruin four years ago, and has taken them from League One to the top 10 of the Championship.
But with new investment needed to fund the next phase at Hillsborough, promotion and a return to English football’s top flight for the first time since 2000, Mandaric agreed a £30m deal with Thai businessman Chansiri.
The takeover has yet to be ratified by the Football League, but Mandaric has been impressed by the prospective new owners and insists the club’s future is in safe hands.
Representatives of Thai Union Frozen Group, which owns John West Foods, have been regular visitors at Hillsborough matches since Christmas.
Chansiri, whose family have controlling interest in Thai Union Frozen Group, had his son Att as a club mascot for the Boxing Day win over Blackpool.
“Mr Chansiri is absolutely the right person to take Sheffield Wednesday forward,” said Mandaric, who will say farewell to supporters before kick-off at tomorrow’s home match with Cardiff City, in a game dubbed ‘Thank You Milan Day’.
“He is an incredible person with a big desire to take this fantastic club to the Premier League.
“What is certain is that he is not buying this club to keep it in the Championship.
“It has to move on to the next level or I would not sell – I am not excited to go but it is the right thing to do,” added Mandaric.
He praised Chansiri for his “financial commitments during the transfer window”, which allowed Owls head coach Stuart Gray to bring in six new players.
Two – Manchester United striker Will Keane and Chelsea’s Lewis Baker – arrived on loan before Chansiri’s takeover deal was made public.
Then four new signings came during Monday’s transfer deadline day in Sergiu Bus, Marnick Vermijl, Lewis McGugan and Melo Silva.
“I always said that if someone came along to accelerate the process I put in place then I would step aside and that is exactly the situation we are in today,” explained Mandaric, in an interview to be published tomorrow in Wednesday’s official match-day programme.
“Mr Chansiri made financial commitments during the transfer window and I would personally like to welcome all of the new players to Hillsborough.
“I am very proud of what I have done here and I can tell you all with my hand on my heart that every decision I made was always in the best interests of the club. Now is the time to look to the future and we do so with positivity.”
In a special message to fans, Mandaric added: “I will never forget your loyalty and your support, and more than anything your trust, which has meant so much to me during these four years. Without that trust, I would not have been able to deliver what you fabulous supporters deserve.
“I will be stepping down as your chairman and as a director, but I will never step down as your friend. I know I have done my job and we can move forward with our lives, but always remain good friends – it really is as simple as that.”
Mandaric will address fans from the pitch tomorrow at 2.45pm, and head coach Gray hopes Wednesday can then beat Cardiff to make it a fitting farewell.
“Hopefully, it will create a positive feeling around the stadium and also the new recruits. I’m sure he would rather we get three points and put in a good performance,” said Gray, who was chosen by Mandaric to succeed axed Dave Jones just over a year ago.
“The chairman deserves to say cheerio to the supporters and thank them for their support. It gives them an opportunity to thank him. We have to focus on the game.
“I’ve not had a chance to speak to them (the new owners) yet. I think they are out of the country at the moment. I’m not sure if they are coming to the game.”
Gray revealed he once rejected the chance to work for Mandaric at his previous club Portsmouth, and hailed his outgoing boss.
“I had an opportunity to work with Milan many, many years ago when he was at Portsmouth,” said Gray. “Harry (Redknapp) asked me to go in there, but I was actually in work at the time and I have always been very loyal to the people I have worked for.
“When I got the invitation to come here by Dave (Jones) in December 2013, I met the chairman that evening with Dave.
“Luckily, the chairman remembered me turning him down so I think it offended him but he said ‘you’re not going to turn me down this time’.
“I was very grateful I got an opportunity to come and work with him. He’s been very, very supportive. He’s a football chairman and there are not many of those left in the game now. He cares. He can be high maintenance at times because he cares about results.
“He’s supported me and he’s had the faith and confidence when Dave lost his job, he took a while to give me the job but eventually did and I’m very grateful he gave me an opportunity to manage at this great club.”