Football's 'Mr Fixit' could yet prove to be more than just an interested party in events in Norfolk this autumn as the Canaries on-going search for fresh investment gathers ever more urgency.
With a gaping, ?1.5 million hole in their 2008-2009 finances to fill following the exit of directors Andrew and Sharon Turner and the billionaire Peter Cullum presumed to be still sat there with his ?20 million to spend 'on players', the club's principal shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones have long been “actively” seeking out alternative investors to the Towergate insurance magnate.
If nothing else, the 'Stowmarket Two' want to give the so-called 'King Of Deals' a run for his money; to find a competing consortium who might flush the real level of Cullum's interest out into the open.
That if there were another show in town, would he budge from that ?20 million figure? Or once the 'deal makers' deal-maker' has set his price for control of the Championship club, will he walk away from any potential, Carrow Road beauty parade rather than be seen to shift an inch price-wise?
Given the stakes could hardly be higher as the credit-crunch squeezes every last drop of good-will from the banks, the question tonight is whether or not the Smiths, the Cullums and everyone else with the necessary bottomless pockets and a fleeting interest in owning a Norfolk football club might not find themselves knocking on the doors of City brokers and boutique investment house, Seymour Pierce.
Where they can expect to join a queue of clubs hanging on every word and contact of ex-Football League chairman, Keith Harris.
Not so much football's king-maker as its deal-maker extraordinaire, senior Carrow Road sources were readily admitting this evening that there is no-one else to compare to the 55-year-old in terms of his ability to land a deal.
Which is why the News Of The World today claimed that Newcastle United's embattled owner Mike Ashley had turned to Harris to oversee the ?450 million sale of the Magpies; why the Liverpool Echo reported that Harris was the new best friend of Goodison chairman Bill Kenwright; why the Daily Telegraph reported earlier this summer that Sheffield United had approached Seymour Pierce to find them the kind of investment necessary to put them back on the Premiership map.
That from a club whose chairman, Kevin McCabe, sold some 60% of his property company Scarborough Group Holdings to the Australian Valad outfit for ?850 million last year. And, according to the Telegraph, he still needs to find that certain someone to bridge the gap between the Championship and the Premiership.
“Seymour Pierce, which has advised a number of football clubs, has been asked to examine a range of options from securing investment to a full sale of the club, nicknamed 'The Blades',” the paper reported.
Harris also emerged this summer as a new, non-executive director of Cardiff City where Bluebirds chairman Peter Ridsdale has a Championship football club to run and a new stadium to build. Somehow. Shouldn't be beyond the wit of the ex-Leeds United supremo.
The most telling quotes belonged to Kenwright – quotes that could have been borrowed straight out of Delia's impassioned speech to the club's Annual General Meeting last year; ones she will, in every likelihood, have to repeat on October 23 this year.
With one slight amendment. Everyone now knows where at least one billionaire is. In Kent.
“I want you to have everything you want, which is a billionaire… I want every one of you to have that,” Kenwright told Everton shareholders in a highly-charged speech this summer.
“That's all I want. I so want every one of you to have your billionaire,” the West End theatre impressario told his audience; well aware that as another f football's 'poor millionaires' his days were up. He wasn't the man of David Moyes' transfer dreams. “It's not me and I apologise it's not me.”
Hence he turns to Harris. And with good reason. You name a big football deal over the last five years and likely as not, the one-time chief executive of HSBC Investment has had a hand. A big hand.
He also paid a heavy price for having virtually no hand in the Football League's horribly-flawed deal with ITV Digital; signed and agreed before Harris' arrival, it was on him that disgruntled chairmen turned when ITV pulled the plug.
Now those same chairman are beating a path back to Harris' door – well aware that a man who can 'advise' on Roman Abramovich's puchase of Ken Bates' Chelsea Village empire in 2003, help Randy Lerner land Aston Villa and, most recently and arguably infamously, ease Thaksin Shinawatra's ?81.6 million takeover of Manchester City is a man worth courting.
Interestingly, among his management buy-out partners at Seymour Pierce back in 2003 was one Nigel Wray – as in one-time Nottingham Forest director and now owner of Watford's very own rugby club, Saracens. And personally worth ?250 million, according to The 2008 Sunday Times Rich List.
Other 'pals' include Richard Desmond, owner of the Daily Express and Daily Star newspapers and Adam Crozier, one-time young tyro at the Football Association, now chief executive of the Royal Mail. The chairman of which is Allan Leighton, ex-Asda.
The same Allan Leighton who was deputy chairman of Leeds United. Under Peter Ridsdale. Who now has Harris on the board at the Ninian.
“I am absolutely delighted that somebody of Keith Harris' stature has agreed to join the board,” said Ridsdale in July this year, as he welcomed Harris onto the board.
“This signals again that we are moving from a phase of survival to one of restructuring the group financially so that we are able to compete in our attempt to progress to the FA Premier League,” added the delighted Cardiff chairman.
And who had played 'a major part' in the Ridsdale-led ?28 million takeover at Cardiff as colourful, ex-Wimbledon owner Sam Hammam exited back across the Severn Bridge? Football's 'Mr Fixit', Keith Harris…
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