THE battle for control of Manly has taken another twist after the owner of one of the club's major sponsors, a waste and recycling company, expressed interest in buying a major stake of the embattled club.
The Sun-Herald can reveal United Resource Management managing director Anthony Johnston is preparing to enter negotiations to acquire equity in the premiers and assume a position on the Sea Eagles board. It is understood he could be prepared to buy out one of the club's major shareholders - Quantum or chairman Scott Penn's company - or work alongside them in a bid to stop ''self-interest and agendas'' from tearing Manly apart.
''I have been a supporter of the Manly Sea Eagles for many years and United Resources Management have been a corporate sponsor for over 10 years,'' Johnston said. ''As a supporter and sponsor we are disappointed that self-interest and agendas have taken focus away from the fantastic efforts of the men in our team that delivered the club another premiership.
Long time supporter ... Johnston.
''Max Delmege, Scott Penn, Phillip Sidney, Bob Reilly and Des Hasler have all without doubt provided great support for the Sea Eagles but it should not be forgotten that none of these men touched the ball in this year's grand final win. The reality is we are a team and there's no reason as to why the club and the board cannot operate effectively with multiple shareholders. I confirm my interest in entering negotiations to acquire an equity stake in the club and assume a position on the board if it delivered a more effective and focused outcome for our club.''
While Johnston wasn't willing to discuss how much he was prepared to invest, the prospect of a seven-figure injection is welcome news to a club still in the red despite winning two of the past four grand finals.
Only last week, Penn told The Sun-Herald he was aiming to overhaul the club's constitutional structure to give the majority shareholders a greater say at board level. Should another stakeholder step in, it may dilute the influence of the current directors.
Manly coach Des Hasler, who will join Canterbury in 2013, has intimated he would prefer just one owner but his successor, Geoff Toovey, has stated he has no objections to the current set-up. Former co-owner Max Delmege welcomed news of Johnston's interest. ''I've known him and his family for 40 years and I respect them immensely,'' he said. ''He's a very good operator and it's good for Manly. The more people involved, the better. The more people who bring in their business knowledge, their passion for rugby league and can financially contribute, the better for Manly.'' The URM Group is one of Australia's largest privately owned waste and recycling companies and employs more than 300 staff.