By David Owen
September 16 – Reports have started circulating that Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Chinese owners are open to selling 20% of the club, as they seek to build on what has so far been a successful return to English top-flight football.
The reports – which are unconfirmed – indicate that Wolves’ owners, Fosun International, are putting a £350 million valuation on the club, which they bought for £45 million in 2016, when it was languishing in the second-tier Championship.
Between then and the end of last season, the famous old Midlands club enjoyed a period of sustained success, including promotion, a seventh-place finish in the Premier League and an FA Cup semi-final.
The bubble has shown signs of bursting in the initial weeks of the new season, however, with the club languishing in 19th place after Saturday’s 5-2 hammering by Chelsea at Molineux. It has also earned the mixed blessing of a slot in this season’s Europa League, where it has been drawn in Group K alongside Beşiktaş, Braga and Slovan Bratislava. Its group-stage campaign gets under way against the Portuguese side on Thursday.
Fosun’s supposed valuation seems in line with the £280 million which Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley had apparently been seeking prior to last March when he was reported to have taken the Magpies off the market. However, the business model that has sustained top-level club football in recent decades – ie large cheques from pay-TV companies keen to lure as many eyeballs as possible to their channels – looks to be increasingly under pressure. If financial experts conclude, as a result, that current turnover levels at ambitious clubs may not be sustainable, then a knock-on effect on asset values seems logical.
It will be difficult for outsiders to arrive at an informed judgement of Wolves’ current financial position in advance of publication of its next set of annual results, probably next March. The club ran up an eye-watering £55 million loss in its promotion year, but a season of Premier League football in 2018-19 will have sent turnover surging and ought to have transformed its finances, even though costs will have increased markedly too.
The club’s glory years came under Stan Cullis’s management and Billy Wright’s captaincy in the 1950s.
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