Stewart Milne, in announcing sweeping changes at Aberdeen and confirming investment from across the Atlantic, described yesterday as a “real watershed day for the club”. But the outgoing chairman was also quick to assure Dons supporters that developments over the past 72 hours do not “in any way” constitute an American takeover.
Milne confirmed at a press conference at Pittodrie that, after two decades in office, he will hand over the reins to US-based Aberdonian Dave Cormack next month. Cormack has brought in £5 million of fresh investment, with two-fifths of that funding coming from a partnership with MLS club Atlanta United. Darren Eales, president at Atlanta United, is also joining the Pittodrie board.
“After 22 years I finally get out of jail! This was one of the things that I have discovered – that it is relatively easy getting into a football club, but it is extremely difficult getting out,” joked Milne, before going on to stress that he hopes having Cormack at the helm will ease any concerns that fans have about the club surrendering control to the US.
“In any business it is important that there is some form of succession plan taking place and we are fortunate here that we were able to kick that off quite a few years ago with Dave.
“When Dave sold his company in America, I thought it meant two things. First he is going to have some cash in his pocket and second he is going to have a fair bit of time on his hands. We reckoned it was the right time to pounce before he committed to something else!
“I think it is the right time for me to stand down. We have got a committed Aberdonian in Dave who is ready to take over the baton. I hope in Dave doing that it does alleviate any concerns both inside the club and also to our fanbase that this is in any way a US takeover.”
Eales, who joined Milne and Cormack in front of the media yesterday, explained why Atlanta United had decided to strike up a relationship with Aberdeen and echoed Milne’s sentiments that the MLS side are not about to have a hands-on role at Pittodrie.
“Why Aberdeen? There are a number of factors for that,” said Eales. “Firstly, this is an incredibly well run club and that is important to us. We are not looking to take over the club and the way it operates, it is a very well run already. Six consecutive seasons of qualifying for Europe, Cormack Park and what has been done with the training ground, shows that there is ambition here.
“Secondly, we really focused on the core values we have at Atlanta United. One of the most important things is giving something back to others and what is being done here at Aberdeen in terms of the community trust really is absolutely fantastic. That was really important to us when we looked for a partner club.
“Ultimately, it is also about personal relationships and, over the past three years, I have gotten to know Dave in Atlanta. Myself and other members of my club then came to visit and what we saw here was a real connection in terms of culture around the two clubs.”
Milne believes that he is leaving Aberdeen in good shape both on and off the park and hopes that, in time, the team will be able to challenge the might of Celtic and Rangers as a result of the US investment.
He added: “We believe that the partnership with Atlanta United has the potential to bring real benefits to the club on a number of fronts.
“It is going to allow us to punch above our weight, it is going to allow us to achieve our aspiration of becoming a Uefa Top 100 club and it will help us try to level the playing field a bit more against Celtic and Rangers, as we all know we can never get anywhere near the revenues that they can generate.
“The club is in good shape; I think we have made real progress over the last seven or eight years. The success that [manager] Derek [McInnes] and the guys have had on the park and the value that they have built in the football squad, that has given us the platform and the momentum to get the club into the strong position they are in now.
“Everyone around the club can take real pride in the fantastic facility that we have built at Cormack Park. We have doubled our turnover, we are debt free, we have cash in the bank, we have a really strong executive team and fantastic staff.
“From a personal perspective, I am very proud to have had the opportunity to lead the club over the last two decades.”