Canaries open to offers from potential foreign investors
Paddy DavittNorwich City joint majority shareholder Michael Wynn Jones yesterday distanced the club from any imminent financial tie up with Lotus F1 chief Tony Fernandes - but reiterated the Canaries hierarchy would not rule out foreign investment.Paddy Davitt
Norwich City joint majority shareholder Michael Wynn Jones yesterday distanced the club from any imminent financial tie up with Lotus F1 chief Tony Fernandes - but reiterated the Canaries hierarchy would not rule out foreign investment.
The Malaysian entrepreneur was an interested Carrow Road spectator for City's recent League One win over Southend after launching a failed New Year takeover bid to buy Premiership strugglers West Ham.
Wynn Jones dismissed any suggestion the Air Asia boss had now switched his sights to the League One leaders in the latest of a series of web chats with supporters on the club's official site.
The City director, however, insisted the Canaries were keen to explore potential commercial spin offs with Fernandes' Norfolk-based Lotus F1 team.
'He was most impressed by the club that evening and that was it,' said Wynn Jones. 'I suspect he has more pressing things on his mind at the moment with the start of the F1 season and the exciting involvement of his Lotus team.
'Of course as we both recognise, with both our colours being yellow and green, there may be some future marketing opportunities for both of us.
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'We would be more than happy to invite genuine potential investors to Carrow Road - that is opposed to 'reported' potential investors of which there have been legion over the years, and quite honestly I don't think we have the seats to spare.
'I believe Delia and I have been absolutely consistent on this matter. We would never stand in the way of any change that would be in the best interests of this club. On the question of foreign ownership the only thing I would personally say about this is that you have to make doubly certain about the validity and intentions of any foreign investor. They too would be welcome if we were convinced that they subscribed to the values this football club has always maintained.'
Wynn Jones confirmed respected financial experts Deloittes were still in the early stages of drawing up a list of potential investors - but insisted the club can manage its estimated �23m debt.
'We do have a positive relationship with our bank and our lenders, which makes me confident we can manage our debt,' he said. 'We are in constant communication with Deloittes, but in practice we are still at stage one and that is identifying and verifying potential investors from around the world. It shouldn't be surprising that this is a long drawn-out process. Delia and I are as anxious as anyone for something concrete to materialise if it's for the benefit of the club.'
Wynn Jones also revealed the City hierarchy have begun talks with Paul Lambert to discuss his plans to bolster the squad during the close season with Norwich closing in on a Championship return.
'For competitive reasons we would never publish what our potential transfer kitty might be,' he said. 'But you may be quite certain that the board is already sitting down with the manager to discuss his needs and how we can meet them, whichever league we are playing in next year. Clearly we hope it is in the Championship but there are still nine games to go and a lot of work to do.'
Wynn Jones admitted club officials are also looking at ways to increase the Carrow Road capacity in the short term without undertaking a major re-building programme. Leeds' visit this coming weekend was sold out within days of tickets going on sale while the club recently announced a record-breaking 18,500 season ticket renewals for 2010/11.
'It would be wonderful if we found a way to increase our capacity without building,' he said.
'This is being investigated as we speak. Obviously, any additions to or replacement of existing stands has got to be a long-term project, not least for financial reasons.
'But also, we would have to make absolutely certain we could fill extra capacity before we created it otherwise it could be a financial disaster.'