Nathan Tinkler has blown full-time on his tumultuous tenure as Newcastle Knights owner, announcing on Friday afternoon he had relinquished ownership of the troubled club.
In a statement released to the Knights’ official newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, Tinkler confirmed his Hunter Sports Group would have no further role in running Newcastle’s NRL flagship.
But Tinkler added that before any handover all the Knights liabilities would need to be resolved – without specifying how much debt the club was in or who he expected to pay the bills.
“We are determined to do everything to make it a smooth transition, but we require all accounts to be settled before leaving the club – then it will be up to others to take the club forward,’’ he said.
“Once all liabilities are paid there will be adequate cash flow available to support the new owners.’’
He also complained that the Knights members club had ‘‘stalled the process’’ of a handover during protracted negotiations he said had ‘‘dragged on for over 10 weeks’’.
“After injecting over $20 million of my own money it is time to stand aside, and hopefully the Knights will prosper and not revert to the old management style and formula that almost sent the club into liquidation three years ago,’’ Tinkler said.
“Since HSG took over the Knights, we have lifted the annual spend of football operations to be over $3million above the average NRL club.
“Commercial reality will mean staffing numbers will now need to be reviewed, grants cut to the junior league programs and the local Newcastle competition.
“I have done my bit for the town by investing more than $20 million and saving the Knights from liquidation and now it is time for someone else to step up to the plate.’’
Tinkler denied reports that the Knights had racked up $20 million in liabilities during HSG’s three years at the helm.
“Any figure like this could only include money I have put onto the club,’’ he said.
‘‘The debts of the club are substantially less than the $10.5 million, which is currently sitting in a bank account [after HSG defaulted on a bank guarantee] and not earning interest.”
Tinkler also disputed the members club’s right to buy the Knights back for $1 after HSG reneged on the bank guarantee on March 31.
“If this is the case, why hasn’t the members club stepped in, instead of resorting to the protracted negotiations,” Mr Tinkler said.
Tinkler took a parting shot at the ‘‘local press’’, saying he could not understand why they ‘‘want to criticise the club, its players and attempt to bring down everything that is great about Newcastle and the Knights.
“If people don’t put self-interest in front of what is best for the Knights, the future is extremely bright.
“The club is in a far better position than it was when HSG took over, with the club then drowning in $7 million of debt, inadequate administration facilities and no formal training facility.’’