A serial entrepreneur says he has secured a non-exclusive mandate to find new owners for his boyhood football club Hull City.
Tony Webster was initially involved in the attempts to broker a deal between Chinese investors and the current Hull City owner Assem Allam in 2016.
That takeover attempt fell through but earlier this year Mr Webster, who is a honorary vice-president at the club, asked the current owner if he could search again for potential buyers.
“I currently hold a non-exclusive mandate from them,” Mr Webster told The Yorkshire Post, “so there are other people doing the same.”
He added: “As a long-standing fan of Hull City, I’ve been an honorary vice-president for the last nine years of the club. I’m quite close to the club. The reason I got involved is I can see there is real potential in Hull.”
The entrepreneur says Hull City is an attractive proposition for any prospective buyer as it is effectively a “Premier League ready club”.
Mr Webster, who owns business consultancy Wayfinder, said: “You’ve got a new stadium, 15 years old. It’s an all-seater stadium with a 25,000 capacity. Potential to go up to 30,000.
“You’ve got a one-club city. You’ve got something like an 800,000 population within East Yorkshire within a 50-mile radius of the city.
“There’s an opportunity for the club to be the real heart of the community. I see that as the opportunity for an investor and for the city. That’s why I’ve got involved.
“I’m trying to remove the emotional element of being a Hull City fan and looking at it from a purely business perspective.”
He praised the Allam family for taking Hull to the final of the FA Cup and bringing European football to the KCOM Stadium.
However, the owners have been looking to sell Hull City for a few years and Mr Webster says that the club is well placed to be run as a business.
Businesses from a broad spectrum of sectors could see value from investing in the football club, Mr Webster believes, ranging from commercial property investors to firms involved in the renewable energy sector.
There is also undeveloped land around the KCOM Stadium, which could be turned into a football campus, Mr Webster said.
He added that Hull City Council is open to cooperating on creating a sports centred campus around the ground, similar to what Manchester City has done around its stadium.
Mr Webster said: “You can see that happening. That’s part of the vision that I see for Hull.
“The council are open to that. It’s about selling buyers Hull as a city rather than just Hull City the football club.”
The entrepreneur, who started food manufacturer Harriet Webster’s from scratch before selling the North Yorkshire-based business to Pecan Deluxe Candy in Dallas, says the new owners should ideally look to run Hull City as a business.
Mr Webster is doing an MSc in Sporting Directorship to get a better understanding of how sports clubs could be run as a business.
He said: “Majority of clubs don’t have that wealthy benefactor or if they do that wealthy benefactor at some point runs out of money. For me the approach should be more around building the organisation.
“There are examples of this working. If you look at Southampton they have sold a lot of players every season but they’re continually a Premier League side because behind the scenes they’ve got everything organised and structured.”
It has been difficult to find a buyer, Mr Webster says, as many are worried about losing money.
“There have not been many clubs changing hands the last year, 18 months,” he said.
Hull City Football Club said it will be making no comment on the sale of the football club at this moment in time.
Tony webster in profile
Tony Webster has been a lifelong supporter of Hull City. “My dad took me on his shoulders when I was a nipper,” he said.
The entrepreneur is also an Institute of Directors (IoD) Ambassador.
In the most recent attempts to find a buyer for Hull City, Mr Webster says, there have been four non-disclosure agreements signed but none have led to serious talks as yet.
Although it has been difficult to find a buyer, if a takeover was to be completed and a position on the board was to become available, Mr Webster would jump at the chance.
He said: “From a personal point of view I would love to be involved at board level in a football club in Yorkshire. That would be an ideal scenario.”
Mr Webster is currently a non-executive director at gas supplier CNG and Hull-based frozen fish wholesaler Xpressfish.