Port Vale: Full press conference interview with preferred bidder Paul Wildes
What was it that made you want to become the new owner of Port Vale?
I've been looking into football clubs for a while now. At their core, they're an under-valued asset, so there's an opportunity to look at the land and buildings and say that over the years at Port Vale, they've not been very well run.
There are opportunities to commercialise the business and bring in practices relatively normal in other industries that haven't yet reached football.
We can bring those practices to Port Vale.
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I'm looking at a business and a club that's in a division it shouldn't be in.
It's a sleeping giant almost, and we should be looking at the on-field activities, and then asking 'what can we now bring to the table?' and we think we can bring a lot.
But it makes it a much easier decision to become involved when you're looking at a club that's successful on the field.
You're waiting for Football League approval, but when can you start work at the club?
We got involved two weeks ago and completed our due diligence. We're now looking to start to take the club forward.
I've agreed with (administrator) Bob Young we can come into the club from Monday.
We'll be in and around the club with all of our people from different sectors of our different businesses and we'll look to see how we can start to make improvements.
Will you have a team of directors?
What I've done throughout my career is surround myself with talented people.
I don't profess to know the answers to every question, but the team I put together will.
We'll be looking to add to the team here. I have my own team. They aren't football people, but that's necessarily a bad idea. In fact it could be a positive in some areas.
We'll be looking to bring in new people where there are holes we can fill, given the fact we have a plan to make the club successful on and off the field.
We won't be making any changes on the football side, that will be left to Micky Adams to deal with.
If he needs to bring in new players, new coaches, a new scouting network then we'll support him in doing that.
What's your message to supporters?
I'm very conscious that you've been at this stage before with another preferred bidder.
My ideal solution, which was never going to be possible, is that we could have announced it as a completed transaction and we wouldn't have had any scepticism around with people wondering 'is he going to disappear with the funds?' or 'is he actually going to complete?'
Actions speak louder than words and as soon as we can complete, we will.
We'll then start the work on bringing the club to where it needs to be.
It's not a short-term thing, its a long-term project. It could take years, not months, but we're in a position to do that.
It's not a business that needs to plug cashflow problems. We're a very well funded group, a very successful group and we've been extremely profitable in a difficult economic climate, so we can afford to look at it in the long term.
We might need to implement a new system of some form, online ticketing, for example, or a change to match-day experience.
Historically, the club hasn't been able to do that because its needed to save resources to pay the monthly payroll. We're not in that place.
What we are is a business that looks for a return on its investments, so everything we do on and off the field, we'll be looking to see what that return is.
I'd say to the fans we hope to bring stability. We won't be making sweeping short-term changes. We will be putting together a long-term plan and telling people what it is.
The club can't survive without its supporters and I recognise the gates we're seeing at the moment are down probably because the way things have been handled by previous regimes.
Give me time and I'll prove myself and show I'll do what I say I'll do.
Hopefully, it's a period of transparency and when we're looking back in two or three years, people are saying to me 'well he did what he said he would'. If that's the case, I'll know I've done a good job.
People won't always agree with the things we're doing, but the decisions will be made in the best interests of club.
Will you be a 'hands-on' chairman?
Very much so. I'll be at the club, certainly in the short term, almost every day.
People know I've got other businesses, and I'm fortunate to have a capable team running them for me. I don't need to be there every day, but this is one that will require attention.
It won't be run by a committee, the decisions will rest on my shoulders and I'll make them where necessary.
Some we'll get right, some wrong. But there isn't a situation where we need 10 people to approve a decision.
You tried to take over Darlington earlier this year and that didn't happen, how can you convince the fans this one will?
This is a very different situation.
I was dealing with an outgoing chairman at Darlington. He saw a property developer coming in, and wanted to recoup some of his losses and we pulled out.
This is different. Here we've been dealing with administrators and have reached an agreement I'm comfortable with.
I don't anticipate issues around Football League approval so as far as I'm concerned this is happening.
I'm sending my resources and my senior people here every day from now on, and that's a significant investment.
I'm not used to giving away money, so that, as well as the £100,000 deposit I've paid, hopefully gives people confidence that we will complete deal.
What are your long-term goals for the club?
I don't want to put pressure on Micky Adams more than he already has.
Vale has the potential to be a Championship club because that's where it has been in the past.
I'm not coming here, and saying Port Vale will be in the Champions League in six years.
We'll go as far as we can and we'll try our hardest to be the best we can be on and off field.
We've got to make the club a business that we're not all sat here again in four or five years announcing somebody else buying club out of administration.
Hopefully I'll still be around and the club will be in a better place than it is now.
What are your priorities?
First we'll look to fully establish where the business is today and we've already done a lot of that work.
Then we'll look at resources and ask ourselves how do we take the club forward.
The transfer window is coming in January and I'll be having conversations soon about what the manager needs to try to take the club as far as we can this season, hopefully to promotion.
We're also be looking at the match-day experience to put plans together for next season, looking at developments within the stadium and speaking to supporters to see what they want.
That's important. This is a business whose customers are disillusioned somewhat and that's something we can put right quickly.
If we do that, then I think we'll see a stadium with more people in it than now.
What are the things you want to see happening on non match-days?
One of the things that attracted me about coming here is I own a successful training business, where we train 16 to 24-year-olds in NVQs and other qualifications.
One of the attractions of this was to create a training business here at the stadium which is used from Monday to Friday.
Hopefully we'll give those people jobs say on a match day or at a conference or whatever to try to make sure we're giving back to the community.
We've made a commitment to the council that's something we're prepared to do, it's something I'll support and I have a business that dovetails nicely into that.
The academy business will move here as soon as possible after completion.
Does your passion for football match your passion for business?
I have a passion for competitive sport which I've not been able to hide. I'm involved in horse racing and now football.
I'm excited by business, but when you put a football team on top it adds something a bit more special.
Seeing the team win against Oxford is something you don't get when making a business deal.
There's an added excitement about the business of football.
Can you give more details on plans to develop the ground?
We had our architects at Vale Park last week looking at how to best use facilities we've got.
We'll figure out how to develop them and try to understand how that would make a better match-day experience. I've not seen their report yet.
The wider development of the land and buildings is something we'd like to look at over the coming months.
It needs to become a leisure hub, so the stadium is part of a much wider development based around leisure and making people come to surrounding areas of ground daily basis.
Hopefully, that leads to more interest and bigger crowds.
Is it a priority to get the players tied down to new contracts and to work with Micky Adams to strengthen in key areas?
All football-related matters are down to Micky and if he wants something, then we'll sit down and talk about it.
The club has done so well with limited resources, but there may well be something Micky wants to alter and we'll certainly try to support him and if it makes sense, we'll invest.
Football clubs lose money rather than make money, why do you think you can buck the trend?
Historically, clubs haven't embraced changes in the business world that may well have helped them.
There have been issues around people treating clubs as toys which has meant they've lost money.
Those days are largely gone now and it's about trying to make the club sustainable.
Does the club have untapped potential? Yes. Do I think we can come here and bring about change? Absolutely. Will those changes bring in extra revenue? Yes.
I've not come into this as a venture to play with for a couple of years.
I've made a serious business decision and it will be run as a business.
It doesn't need to make a profit from day one, but we do need to see long-term potential. It's there without question.
Have you looked at a club that could provide a model for Port Vale?
No. I think Port Vale will model itself on Port Vale. Hopefully, we'll become a club people will look to as a model of success in the future.
Hopefully we'll put in place things that haven't been done in football before and if we do that and we're successful, people will be looking at us in a few years and thinking 'we should be doing that too'.
Have you spoken to the manager about budgets?
Not yet. We had a brief conversation about the possibility of bringing in additional players and it would be unfair to comment on that.
Micky has done a fantastic job so far and he really doesn't need a huge amount of investment in the squad. It's down to him to decide what he wants to do and when he wants to do it.
We won't be betting the kitchen sink on one season. We're looking for gradual progression season in season out and to continue to see improvements on and off the field.
What's the role of your business partner, Norman Smurthwaite?
Norman is a retired financial expert from Leicestershire and he'll have a less hands-on role in club. He won't be here every day, but he'll be there to lend an ear if I need it.
He'll be a director, but that won't mean much day to day.
How much do you want promotion this year?
It would be a bonus, rather than a necessity, and it's not built into my financial plan that we need to be promoted.
Of course it would be fantastic if it happened, but I don't need it to happen and there's a big difference.
Micky is under no greater pressure than usual. If we are promoted then great, if not we'll come back stronger next time.
How much money will be needed to turn the club around?
It depends on what we do. Each individual project will be looked at on its own merits, so if we invest £1m, £100,000 or £10,000 on something, well be looking at it and saying well that pays for itself over X amount of time and we're comfortable to make that investment.
We haven't set aside a pot of money for Port Vale.
We'll look at all of our businesses and see if an investment at any particular time is a sensible thing to do. If it is, we have the resources to do it.
How will the era of transparency work?
We'll hold regular fans forums, either monthly or bi-monthly.
We'll get the next few weeks out the way, and get Football League approval finalised, then sit down without some of the scepticism that exists at the moment.
How aware have you been of some of the politics of the club in the past?
Very aware. I spent Sunday afternoon reading some of the websites and message boards and I found out stuff about myself I didn't actually know.
It passed an hour or two, but it made me acutely aware of the scepticism that's around.
I understand people are wary, but the proof will be in the pudding.