August 4 – Former Walt Disney chief executive Michael Eisner has completed his £5.67 million takeover of Portsmouth via his Eisner’s Tornante Company.
Portsmouth are Eisner’s first sports investment outside the US and his first in football. Eisner said they had looked at investing in the MLS and in Europe before opting for Portsmouth. Eisner previously oversaw the acquisition of an NHL franchise in the US for Disney that saw the company create The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim team in 1983 (and spawning the movie series thereafter).
Portsmouth’s recent years have not been so fairy tale. After a miserable spell on the pitch and in the boardroom that saw the club slump from the Premier League in 2010 to playing in League 2, England’s fourth tier, last season. On its downward spiral the club passed through threats of bankruptcy and ownership battles before being save by its Supporters Trust in 2013 and subsequently finding a relative level of stability.
Last season the club won promotion to League 1 and opens its 2017/18 campaign at Fratton Park this weekend, with the Eisners in attendance. They will be joined by more than 14,500 season ticket holders.
“We had seen a number of other opportunities and there was no other fan-base that came close,” said Eisner, speaking to the clubs new iFollow streaming service. “It all came together and my son Eric said: ‘You know what, Dad? It’s Portsmouth or it’s nothing.’
“We’re about building, but we want to do it the right way – the smart way. It’s about finding players from other clubs, but also focusing on the academy to build a club that’s balanced.”
Eisner and his three sons, Breck, Eric and Anders, will make up the board along with Andy Redman, president of Tornante, and Mark Catlin, Portsmouth CEO.
The deal had been expected once the Supporters Trust agreed to sell their controlling shareholding. Tornante had been conducting its due diligence since May.
Portsmouth have been in need of investment in its stadium as well as strengthening its playing squad. Plans for a new stadium have been floated but not publicly by Eisner who while clearly has the financial resources at his disposal, has made it clear that good business management is the key to the club’s foundations – something the fans know only too well.
“My family and I are thrilled to take on this incredible responsibility as stewards of a football club with such a rich heritage.
“We have come to know the Pompey community in recent months, and we are extremely impressed by their passion, dedication and love for the club.
“The football club wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the against-the-odds commitment of Pompey supporters who came together and saved this club. This is and will always be your team.”
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