Local civil engineering firm wipes Aberdeen FC debts

WM DonaldAberdeen Football Club is back in the black for the first time in 21 years after agreeing a deal with a local business to wipe off its debt at a stroke.

The multi-million-pound finance agreement paves the way for a long-awaited new stadium and training facilities and follows a major investment by local businessman Willie Donald and his wife Elaine, owners of civil engineering firm WM Donald.

Both Aberdeen Asset Management and Stewart Milne Group have also swapped debt for increased ownership in the club as part of the financing deal.

Subject to shareholder approval at the annual meeting, to be held on December 15, the Dons’ £15.9 million debt, which began with the construction of the Richard Donald Stand in 1993, will be effectively wiped out.

The deal with Aberdeen Asset Management and Stewart Milne Group, along with the undisclosed sum provided by Mr and Mrs Donald, means the Dons will be able to slash their debt by £14.49m.

As part of the restructuring, the Aberdeen FC Community Trust will also receive a sizeable shareholding.

The club’s plans for a new stadium and training facilities have been hampered until now by outstanding bank loans of £10.26m.

Pittodrie chiefs had agreed to pay £5m by the end of 2015, with a further £4.7m due at the end of 2017.

The Donald family say they have no interest in seeking a presence in the Pittodrie boardroom following their investment, which has granted them a 10 per cent shareholding.

Stewart Milne
Stewart Milne

Last night, AFC chairman Stewart Milne said he and his colleagues were immensely grateful to the couple, from Netherley, near Stonehaven, who have been long-time corporate supporters of the club.

“The negotiations have been ongoing for a number of months now and these arrangements will, I believe, be transformational for the club,” he said.

“The club are indebted to Willie and Elaine for the role they have played in this. If the final steps are approved at the annual meeting, we will have a strong balance sheet and the debt-servicing burden will be removed, allowing us to drive forward on training facilities and the plans for the new stadium with much greater confidence in our ability to raise the additional investment needed.”

Mr Donald, 59, who founded the company with his wife in 1977, said: “Our family recognises we have been fortunate to have grown our business in a city and region that has benefited from the impact of the energy sector over the last 37 years.

“We decided some time ago that we wished to give something back to the community and we see the football club as a vital and central part of the community.

“We see this investment as an excellent opportunity to deliver our objective.”

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