Fans react as American billionaire gets green light to become Pompey’s new owner

Michael Eisner
Michael Eisner
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POMPEY fans have welcomed the news that American billionaire Michael Eisner will become the club’s new boss.

The former Disney chief executive secured a landslide victory, with 80.3 per cent of Pompey shareholders backing his bid to buy the League Two champions.

It means club finance chiefs will now begin work to formally sell Pompey to Mr Eisner’s Tornante Group.

Most fans reacted positively to yesterday’s announcement and have said the deal represents the start of a new era for Portsmouth.

Del Pulley, chairman of the Chichester branch of Pompey Supporters’ Club, was delighted by the news.

The 200-strong group of fans voted overwhelmingly in favour of Mr Eisner taking over the Blues.

He said: ‘We’re very, very happy with the result. I feel that Michael Eisner can take the club a lot further than the supporters’ trust could.

‘I don’t ever want to go back to the Premier League, but we do have to think about the future and what’s best for the club and I believe that’s Mr Eisner.

‘I just hope we don’t throw bucket loads of money at the club straight away. We shouldn’t repeat the mistakes of the past.’

For others, it is Mr Eisner’s reputation of bringing in cash and bumping up profits which is the key aspect to giving Pompey a bright future.

Kevin Ryan is the secretary of the central branch of the Pompey Supporters’ Club, representing about 850 fans. He said he was pleased by the announcement, which he claimed was a ‘good step forward’ for the club.

He added: ‘Michael Eisner’s reputation is great. You can’t find anything bad about the guy online.

‘Whatever he seems to have touched has made a profit. So it’s really nice to have an owner like that with that sort of reputation.’

Mr Ryan added he would like the American billionaire to show his commitment to the club from day one by investing in new players.

‘If he really means business and wants to prove himself to his doubters he should spend money and keep Enda Stevens in the club,’ he said.

‘I would also like to see him keeping all the other players in the squad and buying two new forwards and a new keeper.

‘I think we have a reasonable chance of performing well in League One but this would definitely help our chances.’

The Blues are currently owned by Pompey Supporters’ Trust, which has a 48.5 per cent share in Portsmouth and three directors on the club’s board of directors.

The rest of the club is owned by 16 ‘presidents’, 12 of whom have voted in favour of the takeover deal.

Mr Eisner first announced his intention to buy the club earlier this year.

Since then he has been in intense negotiations with Pompey’s leadership and has met with fans to discuss his vision of how he wants to take Portsmouth forward.

As part of this, he offered £5.67m to buy 100 per cent of the club and invest £10m in equity – an offer which will now be formally accepted.

However, despite the swell of support for his takeover, some fans are remaining more cautious about Mr Eisner. Among them is lifelong Pompey supporter Bob Beech.

The 50-year-old, of Milton, said he was ‘saddened’ to see the end of Pompey Supporters’ Trust’s time at the helm. But he is now urging all fans to get behind the club’s new leadership.

He said: ‘What we need is stability in the club. I’m not interested in seeing (Mr Eisner) bringing in new players.

‘It’s sad that the takeover has happened. I will always believe, vehemently, in fan ownership – not just in Pompey but in all football clubs.

‘I do genuinely believe it is the only way forward. So I am disappointed that (Pompey Supporters’ Trust) couldn’t come up with a credible alternative.

‘It’s a sad day for me but it could be a bright day start for Fratton Park. The fans now need to completely unite behind the football club.’

The turnout for the community shareholders’ vote was 93.7 per cent.

Of this 80.3 per cent were in favour of Pompey Supporters’ Trust (PST) selling its stake, while 17.3 per cent voted against. Rejected ballots were 2.4 per cent.

PST chairman Ashley Brown accepted the result of the vote and said: ‘This is true fan ownership and democracy at work. Our fans decided who the next owner of our club would be – and it will be Michael Eisner and Tornante.

‘The Trust board would like to wish Michael the very best of luck. We believe he understands the importance of the custodianship of Pompey and will be an owner all fans will be proud of.

‘We look forward to working with him, his family and Tornante for many years to come.’

A statement made by the club added that as the ‘threshold’ to approve a sale, as laid down in the shareholders’ agreement, had been reached work would now begin on the changeover.

A spokesman added that the final terms of the sale with the Tornante Group would be negotiated ‘over the coming weeks’.

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