Millionaire businessman James Spenceley to save Wollongong Hawks

Hawks management hope the new ownership announcement will trigger a spike in club membership.
Hawks management hope the new ownership announcement will trigger a spike in club membership.

The Wollongong Hawks' future will be secure if members approve returning the club to private ownership in the hands of a Sydney multi-millionaire.

Businessman James Spenceley's investment would cement the future of the NBL's last original club, amid speculation the club was struggling to re-sign and recruit players due to financial issues.

Club members have been advised of the proposal, with chairman Peter Bahlmann encouraging them to vote in favour of the constitutional change at an extraordinary meeting next month.

The club's revamped front office staff have been working behind the scenes, and announcements on player signings are expected over the coming days.

It is believed Wollongong Coal will continue as the club's major sponsor on a multi-year deal.

The Hawks have operated as a "community-owned" club since 2009 but endured a constant fight for survival.

The Hawks management view Mr Spenceley as a saviour of sorts and believe his commitment to the club is a huge shot in the arm for the league's long-time battlers.

Businessman James Spenceley.

Businessman James Spenceley.

"James recognises the good things the club has achieved," Mr Bahlmann said in a letter to club members encouraging them to support Mr Spenceley's offer.

"He also identifies what he sees as needing to be done by way of management and investment ... James is prepared to make that investment and take the risk of bringing the club back within a private ownership model."

Mr Spenceley is the founder, chief executive and major shareholder of telecommunications company Vocus Communications.

The 37-year-old's company reported a 48 per cent increase in annual revenue to $67 million in 2013, a rise which earned him 81st spot on the BRW's Young Rich list.

"James is one of Australia's most successful young businessmen in recent years," Mr Bahlmann said.

"In the short time I have known him I have been floored by his commercial acumen and cheered by his congenial disposition.

"I look forward to this next phase in the history of the Hawks and am so heartened at this opportunity for continuation of our club's proud tradition."

Each year, the Hawks spend about 70-80 per cent of the NBL's million-dollar salary cap, though there's a good chance that will increase with Mr Spenceley's backing - a scenario which will bring a smile to coach Gordie McLeod's face.

McLeod has masterfully steered Wollongong to the semi-finals in three of the past five seasons, despite operating on the smallest budget of any team in the league.

The reigning NBL coach of the year's new budget could possibly be the biggest he has had at his disposal during his five-year tenure with the Hawks.

Retaining 2013-14 NBL MVP Rotnei Clarke is one of the club's top priorities, though it is believed the sharp-shooting American guard has fielded lucrative offers to play in Europe.

"The success of the club over these five years has been staggering when I consider the limited revenue streams and the tight budget under which the club has had to operate - happily a wonderful opportunity has arisen," Mr Bahlmann said.

Wollongong open the 2014-15 NBL season with a home game against Townsville on October 10 at WIN Entertainment Centre.

Hawks management hope the new ownership announcement will trigger a spike in club membership.


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