Former Newcastle chairman Robert Tew says he takes no pleasure in seeing Nathan Tinkler’s cash woes, with the Knights’ Members Board on the verge of re-seizing control of the NRL club.
Tew was chairman of the board when Tinkler was trying to take control in 2011 and came under fire from some quarters for trying to block the coalmining billionaire’s offer to buy the club.
At the time the Knights were heavily in debt and struggling to pay creditors and Tinkler vowed to make the club a force in the NRL again if his Hunter Sports Group (HSG) was allowed to take control.
Tew knocked back Tinkler’s initial offer after he failed to receive an explanation on how HSG would distribute sponsorship revenue and demanded members buy-back rights in addition to the guaranteed term of the deal.
Tinkler did finally gain control of the Knights, but only after reluctantly stumping up a $10 million dollar bank guarantee to safeguard the club’s future.
That move by Tew looks like being a masterstroke with the Knights’ Members telling Tinkler on Monday they’ll use their power of attorney to call in that cash within the next 48 hours unless he can show how he plans to finance the club going forward.
If he can do that, he has until March 31 to have the funds in place otherwise the Knights can be bought back by directors for a dollar.
Tew was keen to play down his role and said his only concern was to see the club remain in good hands.
“All that stuff is done and dusted and it will unfold this coming week and hopefully it will all turn out for the best for all parties,” Tew told AAP.
“If they don’t then the documentation is going to be tested.
“It gives me no pleasure at all. The original contract was given in good faith and that it would be executed in full.”
Tinkler, whose fortune was valued at $1.1 billion in 2011 – making him Australia’s youngest ever billionaire – is believed to be down to his last $18 million.
Having borrowed much of his money to make his acquisitions, he was stung by a slump in the price of coal, forcing him to offload his stake in Whitehaven Coal for $300 million last year.
This was in addition to several mansions, a private jet, helicopter and large portions of his Patinack Farm racing empire.
After Tinkler’s takeover in 2011 Tew walked away from the board and although he knows he took the right actions in standing up to an aggressive campaign from HSG, he admitted it took his toll.
However, he said he had the utmost faith that the current board, led by Newcastle-based solicitor Nick Dan, would ensure the right outcome.
“When the contract was signed I walked away,” he said.
“All of the work was voluntary, the last 12 months cost me so much time and energy in terms of my own business, I was rooted by the finish of it.
“Which was only right, because the new people who now owned the club deserved the right to get on with what they wanted to do.
“But we are now at a point where those things have become a bit of question again. But I am sure Nick Dan and the members’ club will work it out.”