How Worried Should Celtic Fans Be About The Risk Of Foreign Owners?

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Earlier in the month I posted a piece about what desperate clubs do and how, if Ibrox’s board felt unloved enough that they might sell to the Americans. That article prompted a long of discussion between myself and some other people by email and text. The question they were asking is “how susceptible is Celtic to a foreign takeover, and should we be worried?”

I would love to say that the answer to that question is no, but in fact this concerns a lot of far more knowledgeable people than me.

David Lowe, the prominent Trust member, has raised this issue a number of times in the past, and he remains worried that having such a large block on shares in the hands of one man – Dermot Desmond – and another in the hands of Lindsell Train, who are pretty much faceless, could create problems later on.

The rest of the Celtic shareholding is pretty scattered; you would think that there would be some warning signs if someone was trying to acquire a significant block of it without going through either of those two parties, and that would be right.

But as long as such a large amount of our shares in the hands of one man, that is a potential source of trouble. Even if, as Desmond claims, he never intends to sell.

I’ve written before on this site that in spite of our concerns over Desmond there are far worse people, far worse types, that could in charge of Celtic. And whilst nobody can defend turning this club into a family dynasty, that also offers a protection of sorts against the kind of people who might otherwise get their paws on the place.

The same dynamics I talked about which could entice a buyer to come for the Ibrox club could just as easily factor into a decision to come for Celtic. A loyal fan-base which could be relied upon to attend in sufficient numbers as to keep on the lights. A major asset without which the club itself could not function. And we have two separate training facilities which, themselves, could be hived off and sold by an unscrupulous board who were in and out for the profit.

Celtic Park is the real prize, of course, and a sale and lease-back scheme along the same lines as I’ve outlined for the club across town is a deadly possibility in any scenario where foreign owners or hedge funds got their claws into us.

Desmond claims that he wants to pass his shares on to his son, who is almost a de-facto board member anyway as he attends the AGM in daddy’s place. As infuriating as it is to think that this is how our future is to be decided, I would certainly not support Desmond throwing the shares into the air like confetti for anyone to pick up.

At some stage those shares are going to have to come back to where they belong; the supporters. The people who will always put the club first. It’s only when the fans are fully in control of Celtic’s destiny that this club of ours will be completely safe.

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  • Pan says:

    That last sentence states exactly what Fergus intended.
    How the hell we got to where we are with shares is shameful.

  • Henry Craig says:

    Yep 100 % would like to see it owned by fans
    But the initial fear of being owned by foreigners and should we fear this, well Dermott Desmond is not Scottish so we are already owned by a foreigner so i dont see a problem if this happens

  • John jnr mack calton glasgow says:

    I wouldn’t mind if celtic got a global sponsor so we could buy the best players and compete in the champions league and hopefully we can get out of this corrupt league that we play in and play in the English Premier league

  • John jnr mack calton glasgow says:

    I wouldn’t mind if celtic had a global sponsorship to get us to a higher level and buy us the best players to complete in the champions league and get us out of this corupt league and into the Premier league in England build a new stadium for our fantastic supporters and let the rest of Scottish clubs get on with it.

  • Benjamin says:

    James, I disagree with both the premise and your conclusion.

    It could be argued, in fact I don’t think it would be a controversial take, that our greatest ever owner in Fergus was a foreigner. Whether someone is Scottish, or Irish, or American, Canadian, Australian, or any other nationality should not be of any concern. What matters is the manner in which they exert control within the club and whose interests are being served when they do so.

    For all of Desmond’s faults, and you’ve written enough about them to collect into a proper book, I don’t think he’s ever going to do any serious harm to the club, and not will he sell his shares to someone who will. He’s reportedly had many offers for his shares over the years, and he’s not interested in selling. Like most fans, he’s not in it for the money. I worry more about his sons than the man himself because we know so little about them and their loyalties.

    As for Lindsell-Train, they seem pretty hands hands off in terms of their ownership stake. They’re happy to go along with whatever Desmond wants to do. Their investment philosophy seems to be to invest larger amounts in a small (relatively speaking) number of companies and never sell. Celtic represents less than 0.5% of their assets and is basically rounding error for their portfolio returns. I worry more about them losing interest and selling the entire lot to the highest bidder than anything Desmond or L-T themselves might want to do.

  • Johnny Green says:

    Merry Christmas everyone, it great being a Tim, Innit?

  • Bob (original) says:

    The bottom line is that CFC plc is a business: clue’s in the name.

    There will always be different opinions between the supporters and the Board / main shareholder(s) about how the club is run.

    But yes: better the devil you know…?

    And Merry Christmas to one and all. 🙂

  • Billy says:

    I think you are just a shit stirrer,Hail Hail

  • peter cassidy says:

    does it really matter who owns celtic as long as they put money into the club to make us the best celtic is a business always has been not going change would not mind someone with a spare couple hundred million pounds to invsest in celtic.

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