Derby County: Chris Kirchner's takeover of financially stricken club in doubt

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

Chris Kirchner’s attempt to buy financially stricken club Derby County is in danger of collapsing, despite the American insisting the takeover will happen.

The businessman was named as preferred bidder to take the club out of administration on 6 April.

Kirchner has told BBC Sport that he expects the deal to be done today.

BBC Radio Derby reports that funds promised by the 34-year-old to pay the Rams’ wages for May have not arrived.

Those wages are understood to have been paid by someone else close to the club.

The English Football League conditionally approved the takeover when contracts for the sale of the club had been exchanged on 17 May.

At the time, the EFL said “the terms of a Membership Agreement” had been agreed with the American’s 9CK Sports Holdings Limited company to allow the sale of the club.

Derby’s administrators Quantuma had said the takeover was conditional on the sale of Derby’s Pride Park home ground, which is still owned by former majority shareholder Mel Morris.

Meetings between Kirchner, his representatives, Morris and Derby City Council, who have said they were exploring options to buy the ground, have failed to resolve the issue.

Derby, the EFL and Quantuma are yet to comment on the latest developments.

If the deal does fall through, it will be the second time an attempt by Kirchner to buy the club has failed.

An initial bid was withdrawn in December before the American revived his interest in April after an attempt to buy Derby’s then-Championship rivals Preston North End collapsed just days earlier.

It is understood that former Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, whose company Sports Direct is based in Derbyshire, has remained interested in buying the Rams throughout.

Delays in selling Derby plunges the club’s immediate future into serious doubt, with the Rams facing their first season in England’s third division since 1986 after Wayne Rooney’s side were relegated from the Championship at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

Restrictions placed on the club while in administration has left manager Rooney unable to sign new players, nor able to offer fresh deals to those he already has.

Just five first-team players – Krystian Bielik, Max Bird, Jason Knight, Louie Sibley and Jack Stretton – have contracts for next season.

Rooney, England and Manchester United’s all-time leading goalscorer, has previously said that his own future at the club was dependent on the prompt sale of the club at the end of the season.

How did Derby get into this situation?

  • 2 April 2019: Derby report a pre-tax profit of £14.6m – the club’s first in 10 years – but only after selling their Pride Park stadium to owner Mel Morris for £80m.
  • 27 May 2019: Derby are beaten 2-1 by Aston Villa in the Championship play-off final, a game described by sports finance expert Dr Rob Wilson as “last roll of the dice sort of stuff” for both sides.
  • 16 January 2020: Derby charged by EFL for a breach of spending rules, relating to losses in the three years up to June 2018. The charges are dismissed in August.
  • 7 September 2020: EFL appeals against the decision to clear Derby of breaching spending rules, particularly with regard to how the Rams measured the value of players.
  • 17 March 2021: Morris calls off proposed sale of Derby to Derventio Holdings, owned by the Bin Zayed Group, four-and-a-half months after talks had begun.
  • 8 May 2021: Derby avoid relegation from the Championship on the final day of the season, with a draw against Sheffield Wednesday. Wycombe go down by a point.
  • 14 May 2021: Proposed takeover by Spaniard Erik Alonso is called off.
  • 24 June 2021: Derby are fined £100,000 over some of their accounting polices, with the EFL developing an interchangeable fixture list in the Championship for the Rams and Wycombe pending any appeal about the punishment.
  • 22 September 2021: Derby are placed into administration, triggering a 12-point deduction by the EFL.
  • 16 November 2021: Derby are docked a further nine points for breaches of EFL accounting rules.
  • 24 December 2021: US businessman Chris Kirchner withdraws his interest in taking over Derby, having first declared his interest in October.
  • 27 January 2022: A deadline to show how Derby will be funded is extended by a month by the EFL, a week after the league had demanded that administrators Quantuma provide proof.
  • 30 January 2022: Fans hold a protest march to try to help force the sale of the club.
  • 11 February: Derby and Middlesbrough reach a “resolution” over a compensation claim brought against the Rams which had complicated takeover attempts.
  • 3 March 2022: Administrators provide forecasts showing “sufficient cash” is available to finish the season.
  • 10 March 2022: The US-based Binnie family end takeover discussions after submitting an offer for the club in January.
  • 1 April 2022: Rooney admits his future as Rams boss in uncertain as administrators are further delayed in efforts to name a preferred bidder.
  • 6 April 2022: Kirchner is confirmed as preferred bidder after reviving interest in the club just days earlier.
  • 18 April 2022: Derby are consigned to play in England third tier for the first time since 1986 next season after defeat by QPR seals their Championship relegation.
  • 5 May 2022: The EFL single out issues with buying Pride Park from Derby’s former owner Mel Morris as a “hurdle” in Kirchner’s attempted takeover.
  • 9 May 2022: Kirchner’s period of exclusivity as preferred bidder to buy the Rams is extended to allow extra time to complete the deal.
  • 17 May 2022: Derby’s administrators exchange contracts for the sale of the club with Kirchner. The sale is targeted for 31 May or before.

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