Derby County: Chris Kirchner exchanges contracts with club administrators

Chris Kirchner
Chris Kirchner previously attempted to buy Preston North End

Derby County's administrators have exchanged contracts for the sale of the club with Chris Kirchner.

American businessman Kirchner will fund the club from next week and says he does not "anticipate any issues" completing the process of the sale.

In a statement, Quantuma said the exchange was "conditional on the sale of the stadium, EFL approval and receiving secured creditor consent".

The English Football League has conditionally approved the takeover.

In a statement released more than 12 hours after it was confirmed contracts had been exchanged by the administrators and Kirchner, 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.

Until the takeover is complete - with the sale targeted for 31 May or before - the club will remain in administration.

The EFL said "final approval is subject to Mr Kirchner completing on the asset purchase agreement and a deal being finalised in respect of a lease on" the club's Pride Park stadium by 31 May - which is still in the possession of former club owner Mel Morris.

Preferred bidder Kirchner said on Twitter:external-link "Today is a day I'll never forget. I'm humbled and excited to share that we've exchanged contracts with Quantuma and I will be the next owner of Derby County Football Club.

"My team is now moving forward on the process to rebuild this iconic club. This has been a traumatic period for everyone and I can say that I hope this is the most difficult transaction I have to complete for a very long time."

Quantuma said: "The period of time between exchange and completion will allow the joint administrators and all relevant stakeholders the time required to work together to meet the conditions required to complete this very complex transaction."

Proposed takeovers of the club by Derventio Holdings and Spanish businessman Erik Alonso collapsed last year.

Derby were placed in administration by former owner Morris in September and docked 21 points over the course of the season because of that and breaches of EFL financial rules.

The penalties contributed to the Rams, who are managed by former England striker Wayne Rooney, being relegated from the Championship and into the third tier for the first time since 1986.

And at the moment they remain under a transfer embargo, have only five players contracted for next season and cannot agree new deals with others while the club is in administration.

Kirchner withdrew from the race to buy the club just before Christmas, but later revived his interest and was named as the preferred bidder on 6 April.

Morris still owns the stadium, but a group involving local businessmen, 'Team Derby' MPs and city council bosses are continuing to work on a deal to purchase it, so the Kirchner takeover can be completed.

Rooney has indicated a willingness to stay despite the club playing in League One next season and him being linked with other jobs.

He has a year remaining on the contract he agreed when he was confirmed in the post in January 2021.

'I expect Rooney to secure his future shortly'

Analysis - BBC Radio Derby's Rams commentator Ed Dawes

This is great news for supporters. The wilderness of missed deadlines had left the fan base in despair.

Chris Kirchner is key to Wayne Rooney's development of Derby County. I expect Rooney to settle his future shortly, and that will open the door to re-signing players who made such great efforts for him this season.

I am aware that several of them have attracted interest from other clubs, but are purely holding out for Rooney to sign a new contract.

Now Kirchner has exchanged contracts, it means Derby can work with a budget and move forward. The club can start planning to hire staff and rebuild the departments savaged by the previous ownership and administration.

They can also agree season ticket prices for League One and put them on sale, which in the closed season is massively important income for the Rams.

The one line of Kirchner and Quantuma's statements that offers a reason for caution is that the deal is conditional on the sale of the stadium.

Once that is done, then the past can finally be consigned to history. Until then it all hinges on Mel Morris agreeing a price that enables him to pay off his debts to Middlesbrough and MSD Holdings. He still holds the key.

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