AMERICAN hedge-funder Matthew Pauls is claiming millions in damages from Sunderland owners after alleging the club was 'stolen' from him.
Trust fund billionaire Kyril Louis-Dreyfus is awaiting EFL approval having struck a deal to acquire Stewart Donald’s controlling stake on Christmas Eve.
Donald will retain a minor shareholding under the Frenchman, as will other part-owners Juan Sartori and Charlie Methven.
Yet Pauls claims he had a £40million deal agreed with all three to buy 90 per cent of the Black Cats.
The 38-year-old insists he completed due diligence, had access to the ‘data room’ in August, and had lined up £2billion in non-football related projects for Wearside.
Sunderland say he did not provide Proof of Funds as requested, and that they were 'insufficient' when eventually forwarded in December.
Pauls denies this and has begun legal proceedings, accusing Donald, Methven and Sartori of breaching an NDA by 'shopping' his bid around.
On November 10, Sartori exercised pre-emption – first refusal – on the eve of the 28-day deadline.
The Uruguayan brought Louis-Dreyfus to the table, with the son of the late former Marseille owner Robert completing the deal on similar terms.
Sunderland have responded to a letter from Pauls' attorneys and, with their answers 'unsatisfactory', he has vowed not to let it lie.
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Pauls visited the club's training ground, held talks at Donald's Oxfordshire home, and has been in London for months trying to close the deal.
He told SunSport: “They used me in order to bide time to create a situation where they could find a replacement.
“They have effectively breached contract, they’ve used private information, and have abused the contract and negotiation process.
“I don’t think Louis-Dreyfus – who could be assuming significant liability exposure – has any idea I was used as a component to their ability to make this purchase.
“And if that were the case, he might re-evaluate the people with which he is dealing with.”
Sunderland, though, have refuted and dismissed Pauls’ claims.
A spokesman said: “Following discussions in the late summer, Matthew Pauls submitted an acceptable bid for the acquisition of Sunderland AFC, as have several other bidders before and since.
“He was subsequently advised that Proof of Funds would be the necessary next step before the bid was submitted to the EFL.
“For two months, that Proof of Funds document was not forthcoming, despite numerous requests.
“In the absence of that, but having promised to sell the club, the Board decided to proceed with another option, at a lower valuation but with strong proof of funds.
“Eventually, in mid-December Matthew Pauls sent a Proof of Funds document insufficient to cover the agreed purchase price, let alone the amount required by the EFL to fund the club going forward.
“The funds were also in the name not of Mr Pauls but of an unknown third party individual.
“At that point – despite the original offer theoretically being an attractive one for the vendors – it would have been irresponsible with regards to the club to persist in discussions with Mr Pauls when there was a solid, transparent, well-financed option on the table."
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