Quiet American to take control of Sunderland

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The Independent Online

Ellis Short, the Dallas-based Irish-American businessman who owns a large share of Sunderland, has in place an agreement with the previous outright owners, the Drumaville consortium, that could see Short take full control of the 128-year-old Wearside club within the next 18 months. It is said that Short owns 30 per cent of Sunderland already but that could be a conservative estimate.

Short has effectively controlled Sunderland since the summer and is working with the present executive board headed by chairman Niall Quinn. There has been nothing hostile about Short's takeover – it has been welcomed by Quinn.

Not much is known about Short other than his fierce desire to remain behind the scenes. When Sunderland put out a statement from Short just over two weeks ago, it was believed to be the first time his name had been officially recognised by the club. Short sanctioned a statement of support for Roy Keane, a "low-level" advisor in one of Short's firms having had criticism of Keane attributed to him.

Short's secrecy has provoked questions among Sunderland fans as to his motivation in acquiring their club, but Quinn has had full knowledge of all matters regarding the takeover and it was Short's injection of money that helped Keane spend last summer.

With the Irish economy in recession and the individual members of the Drumaville consortium hit hard financially, it is expected to be Short's money that would be spent in January's transfer window – if Sunderland do spend once their squad has been whittled down.

Short is also being informed of and consulted on every move as Quinn and his board search for a successor to Keane, but he is not dictating the search – Quinn is.

Quinn will sit down with caretaker manager Ricky Sbragia following the visit of Blackburn Rovers to the Stadium of Light on Friday and will re-assess Sunderland's situation once the Scot has spoken.

By overseeing two four-goal victories in Sunderland's last two matches, Sbragia has placed himself in a strong position even though publicly the 52-year-old has stated repeatedly that being a manager is not his personal ambition.

Sunderland will have to factor in interest from Blackburn in Sbragia. New manager Sam Allardyce has spoken of needing "one more" person on his new coaching staff at Ewood Park and he and Sbragia worked together at Bolton Wanderers for four years.

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