American businessman Chris Kirchner has had his offer to buy Derby County accepted after detailed talks with the club’s administrators over the past few days.
Kirchner appeared to be out of the running to take over Derby when he withdrew his original offer just before Christmas and turned his attentions instead to Preston North End.
But talks with Preston broke down last week and he has now been named as Derby’s preferred bidder.
A statement from Derby’s joint administrators read: “Following a rigorous and well-documented marketing process, the Derby County Football Club’s joint administrators have accepted an offer from Chris Kirchner to acquire Derby County Football Club out of administration.
“This follows receipt of his recent bid for the club. The bid is for the purchase of the football club only with the terms of the club’s ongoing occupation of Pride Park stadium to be negotiated with external stakeholders.
“Mr Kirchner had initially expressed an interest in acquiring the club in late 2021, and the joint administrators have welcomed Mr Kirchner’s renewed interest.
“Discussions have taken place with key stakeholders, and Mr Kirchner has been named as the preferred bidder for the club, with immediate effect.
“The joint administrators have entered into a period of exclusivity with Mr Kirchner and his advisers, during which further operational, commercial and contractual discussions will take place.”
As preferred bidder, Kirchner will have exclusivity in accessing all of the club’s confidential accounts, and give him preferential status to complete a takeover of the club.
Any change of ownership is unlikely to happen for two months at least, Sky Sports News has been told, and there are still many more barriers to overcome.
The most significant hurdle is the ownership of Pride Park, which still belongs to Mel Morris, and a separate deal to either purchase or lease the stadium to Kirchner will need to be agreed.
Then there is the lengthy due diligence needed for Kirchner’s accountants to study all Derby’s finances, and further negotiations with creditors to clear the club’s debts.
However, it is a hugely positive step after months of despair for Derby fans, who have seen their club in administration for more than six months.
Carl Jackson, joint administrator, added: “We are delighted to be able to name Mr Kirchner as preferred bidder, which the Joint Administrators consider represents the best deal for creditors and one which will secure the long-term future of the club.
“The naming of our preferred bidder represents a significant milestone in the administration, and we look forward to working with Mr Kirchner and his team to complete the sale of the club.”
Kirchner attended several Derby matches – against Luton, Blackburn and QPR – and also visited manager Wayne Rooney and the squad at the club’s Moor Farm training center.
Rooney at the time spoke favorably about the possibility of Kirchner taking over. “He has got some really good ideas and as long as everything is right for the club I can see it being a real positive,” the Derby boss said.
In withdrawing his offer for Derby in December, Kirchner said he had presented a “very detailed, generous and ambitious long-term sustainable business plan.”