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Derby County: Chris Kirchner confirmed as preferred bidder to buy Rams

Chris Kirchner (centre)
Chris Kirchner (centre) has also previously attempted to buy Derby County’s Championship rivals Preston North End

US businessman Chris Kirchner has been selected as the preferred bidder to buy Derby County, the Championship club’s joint administrators have confirmed.

The 34-year-old revived his interest in Derby in recent days, having withdrawn an initial bid three months earlier.

Relegation-threatened Derby have been in administration since 22 September.

Administrators Quantuma said his offer “represents the best deal for creditors and one which will secure the long-term future of the club”.

Kirchner’s bid for the Rams – reported by BBC Radio Derby on Tuesday – does not include the stadium, which is owned by the club’s former majority shareholder Mel Morris.

“The terms of the club’s ongoing occupation of Pride Park stadium is to be negotiated with external stakeholders,” a statement from Quantuma said.

“The joint administrators have entered into a period of exclusivity with Mr Kirchner and his advisers, during which further operational, commercial and contractual discussions will take place.”

The English Football League (EFL) said they “await details of the formal proposals”, which will be “reviewed in line with EFL requirements” and includes the scrutiny of the owners’ and directors’ test.

“This process will allow us to understand what hurdles may still need to be overcome before matters can move forward that are in the best interests of the club, its fans and community,” the EFL said.

Quantuma’s Carl Jackson said naming Kirchner as a preferred bidder “represents a significant milestone in the administration” but does not end the process, with attention now on completing the sale of the club to the American.

Kirchner is yet to comment himself, having deleted his previous Twitter account on Tuesday after historical sexist and homophobic posts emerged.

BBC Sport understands that he accepts the messages, from about 10 years ago, are unacceptable.

Derby still face a battle to avoid being relegated to England third tier for the first time since 1986.

Wayne Rooney’s Rams are nine points adrift of safety with six matches remaining after Reading beat Stoke City 2-1 on Tuesday.

More than six months of uncertainty

Kirchner’s selection as preferred bidder comes 196 days after former owner Morris placed Derby into administration, after proposed takeovers by Derventio Holdings and Spanish businessman Erik Alonso collapsed last year.

As well as the club’s debts, including £29.3m owed to HM Revenue and Customs, the search for potential owners was held up by compensation claims from Middlesbrough and Wycombe, who said they were negatively impacted by Derby’s breaches of financial rules.

Middlesbrough eventually reached a “resolution” over their claim after Morris offered to personally accept responsibility for meeting it.

After giving Derby an extension to provide proof of funding to complete the season, the EFL said on 3 March that the administrators had supplied a forecast showing “sufficient cash” was available.

Texas-based businessman Kirchner, who is co-founder, chairman and chief executive of software company Slync.io, first publicly announced his interest in taking Derby out of administration in October with an open letter to the club’s supporters.

Derby manager Rooney backed his attempt to buy the club at the time.

On 24 December, however, he seemingly pulled out of the running to buy the club to “let the administrators pursue their own course”.

Former Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, and a consortium that includes former owner Andy Appleby and backers from the United States, have been among the interested parties.

After ending talks at Derby in December, Kirchner attempted to buy Championship rivals Preston North End. His takeover attempts there collapsed last week, only for him to turn his attentions back to the Rams days later.

‘Relief, but a quick purchase now needed’ – Analysis

Natalie Jackson, BBC East Midlands Today sports editor

Today there will be huge relief at Derby that a preferred bidder has actually been named.

The key thing is that this deal now actually goes through, and quickly, so the club can start to rebuild and get some much-needed stability.

Until the deal is done there will be an air of caution from anybody that cares about the club, including the staff and players.

Tuesday’s win for relegation rivals Reading has made it hard for Derby to stay up, but let’s hope today’s news can give everyone at the Rams a boost, and certainly allow Wayne Rooney to keep the young talented players he has developed.

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