Chris Kirchner outlines ownership plans and management style as talks to buy Preston North End continue

Chris Kirchner has completed a whistle-stop visit to the UK in which talks were held about his proposed takeover of Preston North End.

By Dave Seddon
Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 4:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 4:49 pm

The Texas-based businessman arrived in the country on Monday and left on Wednesday.

He is understood to have met PNE representatives in Manchester on Tuesday as part of the negotiations with the Hemmings family over the sale.

There is plenty of work yet before any deal can go through, with it unlikely to be done before North End return to action against Derby County at Pride Park on Saturday, April 2.

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It was Derby who Kirchner tried to buy from their administrators last year as he made a first move towards getting involved in English football.

Kirchner’s visit enabled him to meet with his UK-based representatives who are involved in trying to put together the deal to buy PNE.

One of them is former Manchester City chief executive Garry Cook, who Kirchner would put in charge at Deepdale if the buyout went through.

When leaving the UK on Wednesday afternoon, Kirchner took to Twitter and invited followers to take part in a question and answer session.

Chris Kirchner with agent Paul Stretford (left) and Garry Cook (right). Pic: Getty Images

The 34-year-old said he wouldn’t specifically answer PNE-related questions but his answers to a number of North End fans did give an insight into his thinking and ambitions.

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Prospective Preston North End buyer Chris Kirchner is back in the UK

Asked how many people he would bring on board with him if he bought a club, Kirchner said: “Right now I’m working with a team on the legal and one on financial side as we review clubs, but when I find a club Garry Cook will run it.

"Beyond that, we will see what’s there. Each club has different needs and people already in place.”

Answering a question on player recruitment, Kirchner replied: “I watch the players more as a fan… I’m not a player evaluation expert. I’d listen to the people I hire and the manager to let them choose who they believe will be best for the success of their system.”

A North End fan asked him about his ownership and leadership style to which Kirchner said: “Hands off… I hire experts and listen to them. I’ll obviously have my opinions that I’ll weigh in with, but great businesses are built by great people.

"Hire the best, trust them, expect high level results, don’t settle anything less.”

On commercial activity and maximising profits, Kirchner said: “I think the “experience” is more than 90 minutes in football.

"Some of the games I’ve been to at the San Siro for Italy are amazing… it’s like a street carnival. The experience for fans never stops now. It’s 24/7 and the club needs to support and enable that level of engagement.”

And on the model of potentially owning a Championship clubs, the American said: “Obviously the model of buying a championship club is to get to the PL.

"But it’s also about sustainability… player development and investment in a tier 1 academy, being the biggest impact in the local community, representing the local area on a global stage. Not just blind spend.”

Asked whether he would be a ‘backseat’ owner or driving it, should he buy a club, Kirchner said: “I’ll be active, but not on a day by day basis or match by match.

"Regular forums, updates, sharing vision, goals, progress, etc. I’ll try to make it to matches as often as I can… day to day I need to give space to the people in the business to operate.”

Kirchner who owns and runs logistics software firm, pulled out of his bid to buy Derby just before Christmas.

It had been a deal complicated by the fact Derby didn’t own their stadium and the difficulties of being in administration.

He maintained his interest in buying an English club, his fact-finding mission seeing him visit a handful of Championship clubs.

Kirchner watched two PNE matches at Deepdale in February and then made his approach to the Hemmings family.

How long any deal might take to do, remains to be seen.

A price has been agreed but there are steps to go through with the EFL before things get signed and sealed.

One of the major pieces of work is a two-year business plan to be submitted to the EFL, giving details and providing evidence of how the club would be run financially in that timescale.

When that is submitted, it then has to be scrutinised by EFL officials and approved, so that can take time.

This is still a spell of due diligence for Kirchner and his team, with them looking at all aspects of the running of North End and its financial commitments.

North End were owned by Trevor Hemmings from June 2010 until his death in October last year at the age of 86.

Ownership passed to his family, with Craig Hemmings having been chairman since June 2019.

It is the family who Kirchner has been negotiating with on the sale.