En route to winning last year’s Championship, Cardiff City lost just over $47 million, the club’s accounts reveal. The total brings the club’s current debt to over $194 million, though the team’s place in the Premier League along with a mechanism to convert debt to shares are expected to improve the team’s financial outlook.
According club chairman Mehmet Dahlman, a place in the first division means last year’s spending can be offset by this year’s income, with the increased revenues associated with Cardiff’s Premier League status set to eliminate the club’s $194-million hole.
“If we remain in the Premier League, debt will not exist and profit will begin to accumulate,” the chairman told Welsh radio (according to the BBC), “which means better players, better football and so on.”
A big part of eliminating that debt will be current owner Vincent Tan’s willingness to accept shares in lieu of cash for investments made in the club.
“We want to get rid of the debt by converting to equity,” Dahlman said of the current $108.7 million owned Tan. Since taking over the club in 2010, Tan has put over $247 million into the team, an investment he’s willing to forgive to increase his share in the team.
“[Taking equity] means Vincent Tan will own this club 98%. And it will have no debt.”
Among the more interesting aspects of the BBC’s report are comments from Keith Morgan, an accountant who sits on the board of Cardiff’s supporters trust. Underscoring the gravity of the team’s increasing debt, Morgan concedes the situation will be fine provided Tan is willing to accept shares instead of cash. If, however, that promise doesn’t persist, “we’re knackered,” Morgan says.
In that way, Cardiff’s situation is not unlike Chelsea’s previous states, with the London club having periodically been indebted to their own owner, Roman Abramovich. Those debts, forgiven in 2007 ($1.37 billion in debt turned into equity), have never come back to haunt the Blues, who have grown into one of the world’s most affluent clubs under their owner.
On a smaller scale, Tan has had similar effects as Abramovich, the latest financial reports showing how crucial the Malaysian businessman’s investment was to securing the Bluebirds’ place in the Premier League (increasing payroll by 45 percent last season). If, however, the club ceases to provide a return on his investment — if they get relegated back to the second division — will these debts come back to haunt Cardiff City? Or will Tan seek to flip his investment before making good on his promise, saddling whomever takes his place with an obligation to the former owner?
Until that obligation is converted into shares, there’s always going to be a doubt, but while Tan remains true to his word, the much-maligned owner continues to fuel the club. Saving the team from a perpetual state of near-administration, Tan has spent to get the club to the top-level. And if the club’s management is correct, that investment will be rewarded with increased equity in a team whose value will grow with every year in the Premier League.