The beginning of the end for Delia Smith's 12-year tenure as the majority shareholder in Norwich City Football Club?
Or the end of the beginning of Peter Cullum's relationship with the 106-year-old football club? That having cornered his prey, the 'King Of Deals' was now moving in for the kill.
He now had, he claimed in today's Norwich Evening News, an agreement in place with Delia and her husband Michael Wynn Jones to meet together to “discuss the parameters” of a potential takeover deal.
He was, he reiterated, still keen on the nation's culinary queen maintaining her presence on the board; to act as an 'icon' for the Norfolk football club.
But once again, it was clear that he wanted to wrest control out of the couple's hands; that was the price for his ?20 million investment. As it was last October when – with the club friendless and adrift at the very foot of the Championship table – he made his first, potential takeover approach.
At which point he was rebuffed; without any formal offer ever being made is the suggestion; the stumbling block being that demand for control – that has to come with its own price tag attached.
For he has, under the laws of the land, got to make an offer for the whole club if he wishes to gain the 61.2% majority shareholding currently owned by Delia and her husband.
They were not about to give that away for nothing then, nor are they now. Likewise in the current economic climate, it would equally be asking a lot of the club's army of small shareholders to give their little pockets of shares away for nothing. However much they love the club and would welcome Britain's 40th richest man onto the board with open arms.
Particularly if the buyer of their 100-odd shares had ?1.7 billion up his sleeve. What's another ?2,000 to him?
But until the price that he is prepared to pay for each and every share in Norwich City Football Club is made known – be it to the club's biggest or smallest shareholder – all anyone does is go round the same “?20 million for players…” block. And get precisely nowhere.
Offer it across a table to Delia and Michael in a nice, fancy London restaurant away from prying eyes, and the deal is done. It's sorted; the smaller shareholders get what they're given. We all move on.
Play to the masses and offer them a price first that then tries to force the Smiths to accept what they're given and relations between present and potential owners could sour even further. That, you suspect, will be Cullum's next move.
“I admire what Delia and Michael have done and want to work with them,” Cullum told the PinkUn columnist, Man In The Stands.
“I would want two-thirds of the share-holding for the ?20m investment. With that level of share-holding (a majority); it would mean the club is in my control – and I was informed that was a complete no-no for Michael and Delia…”
As it remains – until he starts to make a formal offer that recognises the value of their 61.2% shareholding in the club. Over and above, of course, the ?20 million he has long promised Glenn Roeder for his transfer kitty.
The danger is, of course, that in amidst all such speculation, Roeder's own hopes of cracking on in the transfer market are hampered by the perception that Cullum's millions are already in place; that everyone is already jacking their prices up by 50% given that the Norfolk club was now a proper billionaire's play-thing.
The other, very real danger of Cullum and his Towergate advisors conducting his pursuit of the football club in such a public fashion is that it underestimates the couple's unhappinness at being rail-roaded into any deal.
The invitation for Andrew and Sharon Turner to join the board last summer only came after a long and involved period of courtship; the club's principal shareholders got to know them as people before the deal was ever made public; one of the biggest strings to their bow was the fact that they were truly local; they lived on the door-step and would be wholly hands-on in their involvement in the football club.
For all his untold wealth, that is a much harder 'sell' for the Kent-based Cullum who has already suggested that the Canaries would be remotely managed in the same way that Marcus Evans' 'people' now conduct business at Portman Road after long-time Town chairman David Sheepshanks lost his 'executive' role this summer as the power shifted once and for all to the Evans men.
Up the road in Stowmarket, that has been noted.
And for people of Delia Smith's and Michael Wynn Jones' ilk – people who have long insisted that they are merely stewards of the football club and have this strong sense of the Canaries' wider social value in local community – these are big, big issues.
The flipside to that, of course, is that this is what modern football is all about; Peter Cullum fits the profile of a modern club owner to a T.
Indeed, he more than fits the bill compared to some. At least he's actually lived in – and played for – Norwich as opposed to the American owners of Liverpool, Manchester United and Aston Villa, while Newcastle United's owner Mike Ashley – for all his sitting in the stands in a United shirt routine – is hardly part of the 'Geordie Nation' with most of the club's inner circle, particularly director of football Dennis Wise, being London-based.
And Cullum has access to the kind of money that makes the Turners and their own Central Turst empire poor by comparison.
He is the future. Of that there is no doubt. Football is a big business; a global commodity. And Cullum has the financial reach of a global player.
He also has the ruthless edge of a Wall Street mogul; that's how he made his billions. Some of which now need to be shared around Norwich City shareholders – be they big or small.
How all concerned get from the present to that mouth-watering future – and all staying friends in the process – is the biggest question to which, right now, no-one would appear to have an easy answer.
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