Birmingham City talks to group led by Jeremy Dale over investment deal
The group currently in talks over a major investment in Birmingham City is led by ex-Motorola and Microsoft executive Jeremy Dale.
The talks were confirmed by the Championship club in a statement on Wednesday, when it said “discussions have begun between a shareholder and a third party on a proposed investment for St Andrew’s Stadium and a stake in the club”.
Citing “legal reasons,” the statement did not reveal the identity of the potential investor, or which existing shareholder he was talking to, but said he had begun due diligence, which is the thorough evaluation of a business that any potential new owner would pre-purchase.
Following the statement, the club’s majority shareholder, Birmingham Sports Holdings Ltd (BSHL), published its own voluntary announcement on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, where it is listed. This was clearly a response to previous criticism that BSHL had failed to tell shareholders about what was happening at Birmingham City, which has been on the market, for all intents and purposes, for at least a year.
The club declined to comment further on Dale’s group when approached by Athleticism.
However, this week’s statements were the first made by Birmingham City or BSHL about ownership of the club since a takeover bid led by local businessman Paul Richardson and former Barcelona striker Maxi Lopez collapsed in early December.
Their plan was a two-step deal: first buy the minority stake controlled by Cambodian businessman Vong Pech, then complete the takeover two years later by buying BSHL, for a total price of £35m . That plan was memorably described at an impromptu press conference in the stadium parking lot in July.
Just over four months later, however, the deal fell through, with both sides blaming the other. Dale’s group, however, believe the fundamentals of the deal can be revived.
Dale, 58, has also previously set up Often Partisan Limited with friend and business partner Keith Pelley, whose day job is to run the PGA European Tour of golf.
Dale, who also declined to comment, is the sole manager of Often Partisan, named after a line from the Birmingham City terrace anthem “Keep Right On”, and Pelley, 59, a Canadian with a long experience in sport and media, is the other shareholder of the investment vehicle.
Registered at Companies House on November 7, Often Partisan lists its business as “the operation of sports facilities” and “the business of sports clubs”.
While Pelley’s name is likely to attract the most interest – the former chairman of Rogers Media, one of Canada’s biggest broadcasters, is embroiled in the LIV Golf vs. PGA Tour legal dispute – his involvement in Birmingham City’s project was to connect Dale with potential backers.
Dale, a long-time club fan, is currently the manager of a Birmingham-based tool wholesaler, but it wouldn’t be his first football venture as he previously ran OTRO, a social media network launched in 2018 which promised to give fans a glimpse into the lives of David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Neymar and 14 other football stars for £3 a month.
This idea was scrapped after seven months, with OTRO reinventing itself as a digital content studio, although Dale left the company at this time. His most recent executive role, which he left in November, the same month he registered as Often Partisan, was chief marketing officer for Texas-based tech insurance company Likewize. He also wrote a book about applying a “punk rock” attitude to business.
The news that the group speaking to one of the club’s shareholders is led by a Birmingham-born businessman with an impressive CV and links to overseas investors should boost morale around the club, which has become increasingly toxic as confusion over club ownership, management and finances continued.
This was exacerbated by a slide down from the table. Having lost five consecutive league games since Christmas, Birmingham City are 19th, six points clear of the relegation zone. The 2011 EFL Cup winners haven’t finished above 17th in the Championship since 2016, and they haven’t appeared to return to the Premier League since their play-off semi-final defeat in 2012.
But, similarly, fans should also be aware that previous attempts to buy the club from their Chinese owners came to nothing. In addition, the English Football League is still investigating the exact identities of the club’s existing shareholders and whether they should have passed the league owners and directors test.
As another line from Keep Right On puts it, there is still a “long, long way” to go for any fundamental change at St Andrew’s.
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(Photo: Getty Images)
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