HOOPLA: New direction won’t impact Hawks: owner

STAYING PUT: James Spenceley has assured fans his resignation from the Vocus Communications board won't affect the Hawks. Picture: Ben Rushton
STAYING PUT: James Spenceley has assured fans his resignation from the Vocus Communications board won't affect the Hawks. Picture: Ben Rushton

IT doesn’t take much to make Illawarra fans restless about their beloved Hawks’ long-term future.

Given the NBL’s only surviving foundation team’s battles for survival in recent years it doesn’t take much to stoke to coals of unrest but club owner James Spencely has moved to assure the Hawks faithful that he remains committed to club despite his resignation from the board of Vocus Communications last week.

Spenceley, who founded Vocus in 2008, and fellow director Tony Grist both parted ways with the company after their proposal to oust chief executive Geoff Horth and usher in leadership change was unanimously rejected by the company’s six other board members. 

Spenceley served as Vocus chief executive until February this year when he handed over to Mr Horth and took a part-time role as executive director following a $3.8 billion merger with M2 Group.  

Spenceley also sold the majority of his shares in Vocus in August, in part to set up new venture MHOR Asset Management, but assured Hoopla his resignation was nothing more than a personal change in business direction that will have no impact on his relationship with the Hawks.

“I think there’s a few people trying to blow it into a bigger story than it is,” Spenceley said.

“We put a proposal up and said ‘we think there should be some change’ the rest of the board didn’t want that change. It’s what you do as directors, you put up proposals of what you think’s in the interests of share-holders.

“We parted ways as friends, there’s no issue there and absolutely nothing will change in terms of the Hawks organisation.

“Of course to promote my businesses I stick Vocus up on the [Hawks corporate] partners page but the reality is that Vocus hasn’t given a dollar to the Hawks this season. 

“Last season they purchased a corporate box and the season before they purchased a corporate box and some ad-hoc seating. That was it so [my resignation] means absolutely nothing in terms of impact to the Hawks.”

It hasn’t all been plain-sailing for Spenceley since taking ownership of the Hawks prior to the 2014-15 season. The Hawks managed just six wins and a wooden spoon in the first season of his tenure as owner, a year in which the squeezing out of club stalwart Dave Gruber raised the ire of fans. 

The club was placed in voluntary administration at the end of the 2014-15 season after long-time sponsor Wollongong Coal withdrew it’s support again plunging the club’s future into doubt before the biggest single season turnaround in the club’s history under Rob Beveridge.

With Beveridge having signed on for four more years and the bulk of the roster on multi-year deals, Spenceley believes there are exciting times ahead for the club.

“I think we’re in a really good position,” he said.

“We’ve had a couple of losses but generally we’ve got the right team. Bevo’s doing am incredible job and [general manager] Kim [Welch] in the front office is doing a great job as well. I've never seen crowds so big so it’s really exciting and all looking very positive.”


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