'A club stuck in a continually chaotic cycle.' That is the verdict The Athletic has delivered on Charlton.
'Off the pitch, however, there is once again speculation about a takeover and another twist in Charlton’s increasingly chaotic existence.
Sandgaard was hailed as a charismatic saviour from the turmoil that had consumed the club under the ownerships of Roland Duchatelet and the East Street Investments (ESI) group.
Duchatelet’s six-year spell as owner from 2014, when he bought Charlton to add them to a network of teams already under his control, was a hostile, spirit-crushing experience for fans from the moment popular manager Chris Powell was sacked shortly after his arrival. Powell was the first of eight managerial changes under the Belgian, and player turnover was also high, with emerging talents such as Nick Pope,, Ademola Lookman and Joe Gomez all sold as Charlton slipped down into League One in 2016.
Ricky Holmes commented: “We tried to not let the protests affect us. You’ve got to feel for any club that’s been through what they have, it’s been turmoil. I thought with the new owner coming in it would be better but it doesn’t look all rosy. It’s a great club, with great facilities in a great location… you want to see them back to where they should be.”
ESI, a consortium fronted by majority shareholder Tahnoon Nimer and executive chairman Matt Southall, first failed to produce the funds expected and then collapsed in an embarrassing battle for control of the club.
Events took a farcical turn as police were called to the stadium “to prevent a breach of the peace” while legal papers were served on Southall in a baffling few days where nobody knew who was in charge at Charlton.
Five months of interest and prospective owners resulted in a bid by businessman Paul Elliott, backed by lawyer Chris Farnell, being rejected by the EFL before Sandgaard finally became majority owner.
From choosing to reveal his interest in buying the club via Twitter, to wielding a guitar on the pitch as he played Addicks To Victory, the heavy metal song he penned for the club, Sandgaard — a businessman based in the US state of Colorado and founder of multi-million dollar medical device manufacturing company Zynex Inc — has been an eccentric presence.
“We had quite high hopes actually when Thomas Sandgaard took over,” says Heather McKinlay, chair of the CAST. “He went through a lot to get the ownership sorted, because at that point it was in the courts and everything. It was a complex transaction and he showed a lot of determination to get that done.
“We all felt that hopefully it would be the start of a new era but he was maybe a bit over-exuberant with some of his comments — he talked about (being in) the Premier League in five years, things like that.
“That probably is where it started to go wrong for him. If he had come in saying that we’re in the third tier, that’s how it is and it might take a while to get out, there’s a lot that needs rebuilding and we’re going to need to pull together to achieve it, that would have been a more realistic foundation. Unfortunately, he didn’t bring in the experienced management off the field and he’s chopped and changed managers on the field.”
The lack of formal management structure and Sandgaard choosing to involve his family in club operations “aren’t usually recipes for success” in the game, as one former football executive, speaking anonymously to The Athletic, observed.
Staff describe Sandgaard as stubborn and unwilling to accept his own failures. After initially humouring his image as the ‘rockstar CEO’ — Sandgaard is in a rock band of the same name — the feeling around the club is that too much emphasis is placed on his own image and putting himself, rather than the club, at the centre of things.
Charlton remain an appealing club for investment due to their London location, the size of their fanbase and a stadium that’s Premier League-ready, but sustainability remains a hot topic.
Sources familiar with the situation have indicated to The Athletic that a takeover could happen within the month, with the possibility of US-based investors looking to take a significant shareholding in the club while Sandgaard retains some level of ownership.
After another turbulent few weeks of boardroom speculation, Charlton fans are once again left pondering who the newest cast of characters looking to invest in their club might be and, more importantly, what their intentions are.'