It was announced today, and with a reasonable amount of surprise, that Nathan Tinkler and his Hunter Sports Group would be handing back the A-League license for the Newcastle Jets to Football Federation Australia. This would remove the team from the national competition immediately, meaning that come the start of the 2012/2013 later this year, there would be two fewer teams competing (Clive Palmer’s Gold Coast United had been removed from the league earlier under spectacular circumstances).
In a statement released this morning, Hunter Sports Group claim that this action has come as a result of “a variety of issues with the FFA including a $5 million acquisition fee, the Jason Culina insurance matter and continued request to address the competition’s unsustainable financial model”. They go on to claim that the decision was “forced upon the HSG through an irrevocable breakdown in confidence of the current FFA management”.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? Tinkler’s problems with FFA and their management have been well documented. The argument over how much Hunter Sports Group paid to buy the Jets license after previous owner Con Constantine forfeited it have been well documented. The same can be said for the issues surrounding Jason Culina, his injury and what his father (and former Jets coach), Branko, knew about it.
So it’s clear that Tinkler and the Hunter Sports Group are far from happy with FFA. And to an extent that’s understandable.
But is that all there is to this story? I suspect not.
I suspect that there is quite a bit more at play here, and it rests on the long-standing worst kept secret in Newcastle.
That being that Nathan Tinkler really isn’t as rich as we like to think he is.
The first real whiff we got that something wasn’t quite right with Tinkler and his finances came when he failed to complete a transaction required as part of his take over the Newcastle Knights rugby league club on time in the middle of last year.
At the time, the Knights board was quoted as saying “HSG directors Ken Edwards and Troy Palmer this morning advised the board of the Newcastle Knights that HSG is not in a position to complete the transaction by June 30 for a number of reasons, including an inability to pay the existing liabilities as well as an inability to provide a bank guarantee by that date”.
Eventually this was all negotiated around and the deal went through. But it raised some questions.
It’s also known that Tinkler has sunk vast sums of money into various horse racing projects that have not paid back. (Of course, as I start searching for stories on this now, everything Tinkler related is flooded with news of the Jets. So I can’t find links right this second. I may do so later if time permits).
And even just the other week, Tinkler and one of his property development companies back out of a deal to purchase a large parcel of land at Salamander Bay because “it was not satisfied with the options the council had proposed for a section of community land on the site”. Which is an amazingly flaky reason to back out of such a deal.
So now we circle back to the Jets and the handing back of their competition license.
Could it be just a simple tiff between the irremovable object and the irresistible force? Or are we seeing Tinkler attempt to alleviate some of financial liabilities ahead of more liquidity problems coming to the fore?
Only time will tell, but I have my strong suspicions this latest move as more to do with the latter than the former.
UPDATE/EDIT (10 April, 1445 AEST)
So, I just received an email that raises a few more questions about Tinkler and the state of his finances:
There’s a few things in there that are quite interesting.
Firstly, I’m not all that familiar with Tinkler’s specific mine holdings, but it does stand to reason that if anything to do with them fails to pass through smoothly then he is going
to hit an absolute mountain of trouble.
Secondly, outside of TinklerCorp, I’m not aware of what other property development companies around about that Tinkler has an interest in. In my experience, all the reasonably sized ones tend to be very incestuous in their ownership – they all have the same dozen or so people involved as either investors or directors.
Thirdly, the Golden Slipper thing completely passed me by because I usually don’t give two shits about horse racing (or Cash Masturbation, as I tend to call it on Twitter). But, as it’s noted in that email, the reason stated for the withdrawal has a similar level of flakiness to that of the Salamander Bay property deal. The reason is that “Tinkler is believed to have been keen not to risk All Too Hard’s perfect win record”. Uh huh.
So there you go. Some more food for thought.