Image courtesy of AS Bari.
Last month, the deal looked virtually certain after a due diligence period by CEO Tim Barton of JMJ Holdings of Dallas, Texas. But apparently, the real estate executive without any sports management background needed more time to make up his mind. Since August, Mr. Barton had taken a rather surprising high-profile in the global media. He was seen at matches both at the San Nicola in Bari, and also last Sunday night at the San Siro in Milan. He gave several interviews where he described his goals for Bari as if he already owned the team.
But on Wednesday, he asked for a two-month extension for further "due diligence." He also failed to make a €1 million payment by 30 September per the original agreement.
"American Business Acumen and Italian Passion"
Last week, Mr. Barton was quoted in an interview by Reuters that appeared on the New York Times web site.
"This is an opportunity we found interesting and somewhere we know we can apply our ability and relationships and create a change...What changed in the space of one week?
Combining American business acumen and Italian passion is certainly a big part and I think it's a good marriage."
While his big aim is to make Bari competitive in Europe, he intends to take things one step at a time in the club's return to the top flight after eight years in the second tier.
"Our first goal is to stay in Serie A and build a strong team and a strong foundation so we don't have any steps back that can be avoided as we seek to get better," he said."The big teams don't have to fear for their places at the top of the table; not this year anyway."
Perhaps it would have been better to maintain a low profile, complete the due diligence, and then announce your plans for the project after you took over the team.
Mr. Barton seemed pleasantly surprised at the passion of the Bari faithful who met him in great numbers at the airport last month, and who posted signs at the San Nicola Stadium ("Let's Go Tim"). Now, they will most likely feel betrayed and confused by the rapid change of events at their beloved team.
Of course, we are not privy to what was discovered by very astute and experienced business people at JMJ Holdings during their initial inspection into the books of AS Bari. But they did promise to make a good-faith deposit by 30 September. Instead, they asked for more time to evaluate the deal.Mr. Barton's Comments in the Associated Press
Source: AP, 02 October 2009.
"Due to time limitations for completing the due diligence, we were not able to continue negotiations for the purchase of A.S. Bari," Barton said in a statement Friday.
"We respect the Matarrese family's desire to be focused on the team and do not want to cause any confusion or distractions. However, I am hopeful we can revisit negotiations when the season is over. Bari remains in my heart and I ask the fans to continue their support of the team."
The Other Side of the Equation
The Matarrese Family, owners of AS Bari, politely told Mr. Barton that business is not done this way in Southern Italy.
Case closed. Or is it?
"Il sogno americano è andato in frantumi. Dopo due mesi di trattative, promesse e parole, la storia si è chiusa con un secco ma eloquente comunicato della Salvatore Matarrese S.p.a. A Tim Barton non è stata concessa la proroga richiesta: due mesi. Il Bari rimane alla famiglia che lo gestisce da 32 anni. Inevitabile l’epilogo della vicenda, dopo che Tim Barton, presidente e fondatore della JMJ Holdings, non ha versato la caparra di un milione di euro entro il 30 settembre. Condizione essenziale per proseguire l’affare."
"The American dream has been broken up in pieces.“La proroga non è stata concessa – si spiega nel comunicato emesso dal gruppo Matarrese - per il lungo tempo intercorso dall’inizio della trattativa, per il mancato rispetto degli impegni assunti con il preliminare di vendita sottoscritto dalle parti il 18 agosto scorso, e per non disturbare ulteriormente la squadra”.
After two months of dealings, promises and words, the story closed with a brief but eloquent communication from the Salvatore Matarrese Company. Tim Barton was not granted the requested extension of two months. Bari remains with the family that has managed it for the past 32 years. Inevitably, the epilogue of the matter, after Tim Barton, President and founder of JMJ Holdings, didn't come up with the €1 million payment that was due by 30 September. An essential component for the deal to proceed."
"The extension was not granted, explained the communication sent by the Matarrese Group, for the amount of time that has passed from the beginning of the deal, for the lack of respect of the binding assumptions made by the preliminary sale underwritten by the parties on last 18 August, and lastly for not disturbing the team itself."Italian Source: La Gazzetta dello Sport, 01 October 2009.
"Oggi è una scadenza improrogabile perché lo abbiamo sancito con un contratto preliminare firmato di comune accordo tra la parte venditrice e la parte acquirente, se entro mezzanotte dunque non arriva nulla salta il preliminare".
"Today (30 September) is a planned expiration of the deal because we had sanctioned it with a preliminary contract signed in common agreement between the seller and the acquiring party. Therefore if by midnight nothing arrives (€1 million deposit) the preliminaries are voided."Salvatore Matarrese, Director General of AS Bari.
Italian Source: AS Bari website, 30 September 2009.
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