With virtually her last words to this evening's packed Annual General Meeting at Carrow Road, City's celebrity owner Delia Smith set out her own criteria for any potential new investor in the Canaries.
“M-O-N-E-Y,” she said simply, as the nation's favourite TV cook revealed that, at the age of 67 years old, she had just agreed to take on more work in a bid to find another ?3 million for her beloved Canaries.
With almost her first words, Delia had ruled out any prospect of Towergate billionaire Peter Cullum riding to the Norfolk club's rescue. In a written letter passed between advisors, Britain's 40th wealthiest man had made it clear he would not be making any bid for the Championship club. His 'interest' – such as it ever was – was at an end.
In between, and Delia threw a new name into the hat – football's deal-maker extraordinaire, Keith Harris.
Who he? The man MyFootballWriter suggested back in September might prove to be the one to pull some serious strings after the former Football League chairman introduced Randy Lerner to Aston Villa and as head of the boutique investment bank Seymour Pierce was now the man to make a deal.
Sure enough, Delia and her husband Michael Wynn Jones had, indeed, been to see Harris; as has Bill Kenwright at Everton, Mike Ashley at Newcastle, etc, etc… Harris' current client list probably encompasses a third of the Premiership and half of the Championship as everyone scrambles around to get a slice of the kind of Middle Eastern money now flooding into Eastlands.
“My understanding is that Keith Harris of Seymour Pierce has been appointed by Delia and Michael to try and find new investment,” said the club's chief executive Neil Doncaster tonight, as he added an official explanation as to the owner's thinking now that Cullum's interest had ended.
“He's someone who has a large hand in takeover deals within football,” said Doncaster, his own travels in football's corridors of power making him all-too aware of Harris' impressive cv.
“I believe he was responsible for Randy Lerner coming in at Aston Villa; I believe he was responsible for some of the investment at Chelsea and Manchester United. And I believe he has also been appointed by Newcastle and Everton. So there's a number of clubs that have used Keith Harris' services in the past and clearly he is the market leader in terms of bringing in new investment into football clubs.”
The other point to note there is the Lerner example – the US owner of Villa was recently cited by club chairman Roger Munby as a potential 'role model' for any future foreign owner of the Canaries.
Where once upon a time, the succession issue hinged on finding someone who lived within spitting distance of Carrow Road – Taverham in the case of Andrew and Sharon Turner – now all doors are open; all offers up for discussion. Harris certainly has contacts right across the globe – albeit, in particular, in the Middle East and Far East.
“We all know that new investment within a Championship club is vital – the reality is that the more you can afford to pay your players, the better chance you have of competing at the top end of the division.
“And if we get that new investment, then that's where we want to be.”
Not 19th – as a succession of 'disillusioned' supporters made plain to City boss Glenn Roeder who copped most of the night's flak. Indeed, it was only at the very end of a two-hour Q&A session that followed the four-minute long formal business that Cullum's name even got a mention.
Andrew Cullen's name never crossed the lips of a single share-holder; the Turner's exit was never questioned. The real bee in the bonnet remained the manner of Darren Huckerby's exit; it was his name that dominated much of the proceedings and produced one or two tetchy exchanges with the manager as he made his AGM 'debut'.
It is Harris who could, however, hold the key to the Norfolk club's future – if the match-maker can ever make a match. He has been working on the owners behalf for “more than a few weeks”, according to Doncaster, who confirmed Cullum's exit from proceedings.
How genuine his interest ever was was, said Delia, something to ask him. “There was never an offer,” she added, revelaing that the couple's earlier reticence to talk about Cullum's interest was simply down to their hope that he might put his money where his mouth was.
Now that the so-called 'King Of Deals' had officially declared his hand – as in 'Not interested, thanks…' – so she felt able to reveal more of the lowest point in their 12-year tenure of the club; trying to keep the supporters informed and keep the prospect of someone, somewhere investing in the Norfolk club alive. Hence the “hours and hours” the pair have spent this summer working with Harris and Co.
“It's become clear that Peter Cullum appears to have no interest in making an offer for Delia and Michael's shareholding and so for some time now Keith [Harris] and another firm have been working on trying to find new investment to bring into Norwich City Football Club,” said Doncaster, well aware of the frustration felt by the 'Stowmarket Two' as they sought to keep everyone informed.
“She wanted passionately to tell supporters exactly what was going on; we saw all the speculation in the Press; the figures that were being bandied around about people wanting to put money into the football club and she wanted to come out and say that they hadn't received any offer.
“But felt that to do so wouldn't be in the best interests of the club; that it might prejudice the possibility of money coming in and hence it is only now that she has been able to come out on the record and set out the facts.”
The fact of the matter was, apparently, that the Towergate link was ended in a written letter exchanged between the two parties.
“My understanding is that Peter Cullum's advisors have contacted Delia and Michael's advisors and told them that Peter has no intention of making an offer to buy into Norwich City Football Club.”
And that, folks, was that. The ball was now lodged firmly with Mr K Harris and the officers of Seymour Pierce.