Swansea City Supporters Trust and club owners delay share sale talks

Steve Kaplan (left)
Steve Kaplan (l) and Jason Levien front the American consortium that owns Swansea City

Swansea City's American owners have put talks about buying some of the Swansea City Supporters' Trust's shares on hold until the end of the season.

Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien led a consortium which bought a controlling stake of 68% in the club in 2016.

The Trust kept its 21.1% share but had proposed selling up to 10.5% to Kaplan, Levien and chairman Huw Jenkins.

With the Swans bottom of the Premier League table, both parties have decided to put negotiations on hold.

Selling half of its shares would earn the Trust around £11m, while retaining its director's seat on the board, currently held by Stuart McDonald.

The money generated could protect the Trust's standing in the event of the club losing value - for example, relegation from the Premier League - or dilution of shares.

Such a deal would also maintain a 'rainy day fund' to support the club in the event of financial difficulties in the future.

According to a statement from Kaplan and Levien: "The offer would have seen the Trust shares purchased on terms more preferential than those accepted by the previous shareholders in July 2016.

The last five Swansea City managers (from left): Garry Monk, Francesco Guidolin, Bob Bradley, Paul Clement and Carlos Carvalhal
Swansea City have had five managers in just over two years (from left): Garry Monk, Francesco Guidolin, Bob Bradley, Paul Clement and Carlos Carvalhal

"However, we understand there are still areas of concern amongst members of the Trust board and the membership as a whole over the offer.

"At this stage, we do not want the proposed share deal to become a source of antagonism between ourselves and the Trust, especially when the club finds itself in such a challenging position on the pitch.

"Neither ourselves nor the Trust should allow any other issue to overshadow the club's fight to maintain its Premier League status and the upcoming transfer window."

The Trust will seek the views of their members before deciding how to proceed.

Their statement said: "As the mandate from Trust members to sell shares was given in July 2017 and there will now be a further delay in fulfilling that mandate, the Trust board can confirm that a further members' consultation will take place to ensure the Trust board is acting on the current views of its membership on how we proceed from this point."

A background of strained relations

Relations between Swansea's owners and the Trust have been strained at times, with the Trust initially excluded from negotiations about the 2016 takeover.

Talks between Levien and club chairman Huw Jenkins started in August 2015, gathered pace in December that year but the Trust was only alerted to the sale in March 2016, four months before the deal was completed in July 2016.

At the time, the Trust considered taking legal action over the manner in which the existing directors sold their shares.

"The terms of the deal (to sell 10.5% - half its stake) would have meant that it would settle any legal claims regarding the sale," said the Trust.

"Not that the Trust were advised not to proceed (with legal action) if the deal was signed. The possibility of legal action remains open."

Jenkins was among those selling their shares in 2016 and the Trust has called for the chairman to be dismissed for his role in the takeover, Swansea's poor transfer dealings and their struggles on the field.

Levien and Kaplan also apologised to the Trust for not informing the supporters' body of the final decision to appoint former manager Bob Bradley in October 2016.

The relationship between the Trust and the club's owners has since improved, paving the way for Kaplan, Levien and Jenkins to discuss buying some of the Trust's shares.

"Discussions have been put on hold while we devote all our time, energy and resources into addressing the immediate challenges facing the club," Kaplan and Levien's statement continued.

"We still intend maintaining an excellent relationship with the Trust leadership and the lines of communication at this important stage in the club's history remain open."

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