Monday 11 December 2017

Investment not crucial for Southampton, says chairman Ralph Krueger

Ralph Krueger, left, says owner Katharina Liebherr will remain involved with Southampton regardless of whether it attracts investors or not
Ralph Krueger, left, says owner Katharina Liebherr will remain involved with Southampton regardless of whether it attracts investors or not

Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger has promised the club will not operate with the handbrake on as investment talks continue.

Markus Liebherr saved the then-League One club by lifting them out of administration in 2009, but was unable to witness their progress after dying the following year.

Liebherr's daughter Katharina inherited Saints and, having seen the club become a Premier League regular, confirmed in January that talks were being held with Chinese investors - as they continue to be four months on.

Press Association Sport understands Liebherr would retain a 20 per cent stake from the club's prospective sale to Lander Holdings, but that could later be bought out depending on the partnership's development.

While talks rumble on towards the summer, Saints chairman Krueger has moved to clarify the club's position as attention soon turns to the 2017-18 season.

"I think it is extremely important to make a clear statement from Southampton that we are really, really okay with however this process ends," he told Press Association Sport.

"On the one side as we stated in Katharina's statement in January that we are looking for investment, that we are looking at a way to take the club to another level that has to be in the best interests of the club.

"That process is ongoing and if it goes through we're going to be extremely pleased. But I have to tell you equally if this doesn't happen in the summertime and it's status quo, everybody needs to know we are fine and we will work exactly the same way through the summer.

"So the strategy we have in place, the movements we have in place, how we want to operate, we're equally strongly in position.

"I think that's important that there's no danger to the club and Katharina in either model is staying involved.

"She is definitely going to retain ownership and involvement and we'll be able to have some continuity there, which will be good. Also the management team and the present leadership all the way through operations will stay intact."

Pushed on whether they would have to operate with the handbrake on as talks continue, Krueger said: "We have complete backing from Katharina and the ownership to operate as we had planned, with or without a change of investment. That's a positive thing."

Krueger outlined the internal restructuring at the club after chief executive Gareth Rogers left St Mary's to "pursue new opportunities" at the start of May.

"The operational management is structured and re-organised internally," the Southampton chairman said.

"We've undertaken a reorganisation where we decided we will not fill a CEO role anymore. We will not have the CEO role moving forwards.

"We have a three-man board with myself as chairman, Les Reed as vice-chairman of football and Martin Semmens - he has been the lead on our operation in marketing and brand-building for three-and-a-half years - will become vice-chairman of business.

"We will be the strategic lead, we will be the strategic board, then we will now operate with a managing director. That will be an interim basis here initially.

"Toby Steele, who was the chief financial officer to date, will retain his CFO role and be our interim MD.

"We are now building a new operational board, which will take the lead on the day-to-day operations of the club."

Krueger added: "I think we grew by 80 per cent staff in the last three years and it created a little bit of a complicated structure.

"We've simplified things a little bit and we will not be replacing the CEO role, and I as chairman feel really strong about the team we have in place right now."

Press Association

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