Dave Cormack made his fortune through a software business he sold for $1 billion and the newly arranged partnership with Atlanta United connects Aberdeen to Arthur Blank, who owns the MLS side and the American football franchise the Atlanta Falcons, with a personal wealth estimated at $4 billion… but Dons supporters shouldn’t get too excited.
Blank’s representative on the board at Pittodrie is Darren Eales, who doubles as the Major League Soccer club’s president after previous success with Tottenham Hotspur, and who was quick to point out yesterday that their £2m investment in the Scottish side is as much largesse as they are willing to dispense.
After all, you don’t reach that level of extreme wealth by being reckless with money and the new Aberdeen chairman knows the club, along with many others in Scotland, fell into that trap in the not too distant past.
The difference was the Dons were able to work their way out of £15m worth of debt without serious repercussions to a position where they can now afford the third highest wage bill in Scottish football of around £9m per year in recently released figures.
Cormack is certain the tie-up with the club from his adopted home city in the USA can help increase Aberdeen’s income even further but manager Derek McInnes will have to make do with the budget he is currently operating under.
“We’ve increased the playing budget by £1.5m in the last two seasons which is a lot of money,” said Cormack. “We think the budget we have there, outside of Celtic and Rangers, is by far more than anyone else is spending.
“Derek can spend the money on wages or on transfers. We bought Funso Ojo for £125,000 but we also increased significantly the player budget for this season because we wanted players on two or three-year contracts.
“We’re not getting involved in an arms race. We’ve done that and everyone else did it and look where it led. It took us 15 years to eliminate the debt. Yes we will spend money but not significantly more than we can generate but we think we can generate more income.
“We set our goal to be at least third in the league each season. We’re all under pressure. The chairman is, the commercial director is.”
But significantly, the manager isn’t under increased pressure despite the change of regime. New chairmen often look for a new manager when they take over but Cormack is quite content with the one he’s got. In fact, he’s already spent time with McInnes restructuring the way the club operates behind the scenes. Just as importantly, he is more than happy with how the Aberdeen manager is handling things on the park despite a trying time with injuries so far this season.
He added: “It has been unfair to judge Derek on games when we’ve had eight players injured. We need to remember where we were a few years ago. The early games produced high intensity pressing football and once we get everyone fit we’ll be back to that.
“I’ve been on the board for almost three years and so the relationship with Derek is already a close one. We set out in the summer to get our transfer business done early and to eradicate the situation where we had six or seven players out of contract every summer.
“We’ve done that to an extent that it’s only Shay Logan whose current deal is up at the end of this season. We’ve also got younger players coming through on longer contracts so we set out to get this revolving door situation sorted out.”
Of course, Aberdeen have already benefited from the Atlanta United connection with their midfielder Jon Gallagher, pictured inset, on a season-long loan at Pittodrie but Cormack is hoping the MLS club can help them discover the next Alfredo Morelos.
They’ve already sold Paraguay midfielder Miguel Almiron to Newcastle United for £21m after he helped them win last year’s MLS Cup, while their latest star is Venezuela striker Josef Martinez.
He’s scored 87 goals in 96 games for Atlanta United and is the sort of talent Cormack is confident their technical director Carlos Bocanegra can help Aberdeen identify. He works under Frank de Boer, who is head coach at Atlanta, and the hope is McInnes can benefit from the situation.
Cormack added: “Derek’s involved in the restructuring of the scouting system as it’s all about the sort of players that we need at Aberdeen.
“The game’s different here compared to the MLS so it’s about getting an understanding about what we’re looking for and what Atlanta are looking for. They have amazing access to emerging talent in South America so they probably know five or six Morelos’s that are hidden there in different leagues. That will be helpful for us.”