Match-maker, match-maker, make us a match was the theme of last night's Annual General Meeting at Carrow Road last night as City's principal shareholder Delia Smith revealed that in the wake of the collapse of Peter Cullum's reported interest, she and her husband Michael Wynn Jones had thrown themselves at the mercy of football's 'Mr Fixit', Keith Harris.
And with the same sense of impeccable timing that underpins many of his more successful takeover deals, who should The Guardian's football finance writer David Conn catch-up with today but football's 'Mr Fixit', Keith Harris.
True to his globe-trotting ways, the chairman of the boutique investment bank Seymour Pierce could be found having a power breakfast in Switzerland with some of sports A-List movers and shakers.
His thoughts on a proposed sale of Everton by Delia and Michael's West End theatre impressario pal Bill Kenwright made for fascinating reading given that Norwich are now, officially, sat on Harris' desk with a big 'For Sale' stamped across the Norwich City folder.
What would any in-coming, potential owner of one, second-hand Championship football club [one careful lady owner] actually look for these days? What's in it for them, was the first line of Conn's questioning.
That they can make some easy money, appeared to be Harris' bottom line; owning Delia's Brasserie might not, actually, be seen as 'trophy asset' in the way that ownership of a Liverpool or an Everton might.
“I have been able to demonstrate that if you do it correctly, the club should generate sufficient cash to fund itself, so having bought it you shouldn't have to put more money in unless you choose to,” Harris told The Guardian. “And you can generate a return of 5-10% in the value of the club every year over a period of seven to 10 years.”
Whether such numbers crunch so easily when you're sat 19th in the Championship is an entirely different matter; Norwich will certianly have big strings to their bow – they have a solid season-ticket base, a great community reputation and – unlike Everton – have no rival for 45-miles. Norwich and Norfolk are a one-club city and county.
That helps. As it does with Mike Ashley's proposed sale of Newcastle.
Mr Match-Maker's thoughts on finding a buyer for Everton given who and what lie the other side of Stanley Park will not have warmed the cockles of Kenwright's heart this morning.
“There is no progress at all,” Harris said, as Conn quizzed him on the progress of that Everton sale.
“The demographics of Liverpool as a city are not hugely compelling. It is not a very wealthy city; Everton share the city with another club which arguably has been in the vanguard for the last decade and they both have a stadium to build. So the economics need a lot of looking at.”
Norwich don't have a stadium to build; they have a restaurant or two with a national treasure attached; and have a passionate supporter base upon which to thrive and survive. If they can get some cash in.
Aston Villa's Randy Lerner remains the role model for all concerned; he is, it appears, the deal of which Harris is most proud.
Two have subsequently gone right off the rails – Thaksin Shinawatra a Manchester City and, more recently, Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson at West Ham United whose fortune – along with that of Iceland itself – went down the credit crunch pan.
“He was one of the wealthiest men in what was a very wealthy country,” Harris told Conn, proof that things can still go very wrong. There is no such thing as the real deal in these turbulent times.
“His intentions were entirely honourable. The fact that the Iceland banking system was over-leveraged and hanging by a thread, I don't think anybody knew at the time. The collapse was due to the turbulence of the global financial system and not something anybody could have envisaged.”
That same turbulence is, said Harris, making it that much harder to work a deal. The collapse of Charlton's proposed deal proved that point as the Addicks' Middle Eastern backers got cold feet at the 11th hour.
“People are wondering: 'Should we?' Is now the time to spend the money? Should I be buying what are essentially trophy assets today?”
The straw for Canary fans to cling to is, actually, the Newcastle model. Albeit a slightly scaled down version – but one with D Smith attached and not M Ashley.
'Newcastle, Harris said, is still a desirable club to buy, because it has a 52,000-seat “fabulous stadium” already developed in a one-club city where the supporters have amply demonstrated the fierceness of their devotion.' wrote Conn, offering a logic that ought to prove just as applicable to the Canaries.
Speaking with typical passion last night, Delia insisted that she and Michael were still in for the long haul; that if no-one could be found, they would just have to hunker down and ride it out. Part of that planning involved her taking on more work as the officers of Seymour Pierce went about their work.
“At the age of 67 I have just signed up for more work,” she revealed. “Signed up for a lot of work on your behalf – because Michael and I have got find ?3 million this year.”
Harris finds them Mr Right and they will, she says, not make life difficult for any prospective new owner.
“We will never stand in the way – write that down,” she told both shareholders and reporters. “Never.”
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