1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Max Delmege & Scott Penn Articles in todays SMH

Discussion in 'Rugby League Forum' started by Berkeley_Eagle, Sep 29, 2007.

  1. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan

    +2,125 /14
    Max Delmege & Scott Penn Articles in todays SMH

    September 29, 2007

    Max Delmege has sunk $12 million into the Sea Eagles. Not bad for a skinny Housing Commission kid from Maroubra, writes Andrew Stevenson.
    Sometime during tomorrow night's rugby league grand final Max Delmege's blood pressure will reach cooking point. "People say you could fry an egg on my cheeks when it gets tense," he jokes. Truth is you could fry one anywhere on his head. Delmege will be riding Manly home against Melbourne in the NRL decider as if his life depended on it, the end of an odd and remarkable journey for the northern beaches property developer who came to find another home in the dressing sheds at Brookvale Oval.

    Spoken like the footballer he isn't, Delmege lists his wedding day and the births of his two boys as bigger, but his deep chuckle and the glint in his eye speak of another truth. If Manly win "it will be the most amazing feeling I could possibly experience", says the 62-year-old.

    This from a man who never played football beyond school, who has vague memories of bringing his boys to Brookvale Oval when they were young, yet who saved Manly when the club was teetering on the edge of a financial abyss and kept on signing cheques to lead the club back to the top of the NRL.

    Delmege has sunk some $12 million into Manly, an investment only his children could possibly hope to redeem. When you ask him why, he smiles and says it's because of the smiles. And, as infuriating an answer as that might sound, it just could be true.

    Known and loathed the league world over as the Silvertails, Manly, operating under the guise of the Northern Eagles, didn't have two coins to rub together when they came on bended knee to Delmege in 2002. "I gave them some money to help them out. When Ian Thomson [then chief executive] came to see me again I realised it was just a Band-Aid and I went to a game and we won and I saw how passionate the people were and the smiles on their faces and I thought: 'I've got to continue on'," Delmege recalls.

    "They needed, very quickly, $750- or $800,000 which I gave them in a couple of days to save them so they wouldn't have to close the doors. Probably a month later I gave them another million. It went on until in two or three years I'd given them probably $6 million. And here we are today."

    The exposure undoubtedly helps Delmege's real estate business but not enough to justify the dollars spent. He began as benefactor, became major sponsor and bought a majority stake when the club was privatised - the Penn family now owns 40 per cent, Delmege 40 per cent with 20 per cent held by a supporters club - but Delmege denies even a hint of being a frustrated player.

    "With my build I was never going to make it. With my co-ordination I was certainly never going to make it: I accept what I am."

    Success, more so in a football club than most places, usually has a hundred fathers. Not this time. Coach Des Hasler has climbed the staircase from 13th in 2004, to eighth in 2005 to fifth last year to universal acclaim. Others lent money to stave off the end but everyone agrees Manly wouldn't be here without Max.

    Prop Jason King is typical, remembering days spent training and wondering if he'd be paid. "We wouldn't be here without Max," he says. "He's just thrown so much money and so much support behind the players and coaching staff. Everyone on the team is so grateful to him."

    Delmege was born in a Housing Commission flat in Maroubra and followed Souths until marriage took him across the bridge and his children Brett and Robbie turned him to Manly. Brett ate 10 bananas a day, says Dad, trying, unsuccessfully, to bulk up to make it as a player.

    But something funny happened when Delmege handed over the first cheque. "My heart was taken out of here [he gestures to his chest] and given to Manly," he says.

    Dressing sheds, winning ones at least, can be intoxicating places. Delmege has clearly drunk his fill.

    "It's real," he says. "You can't take your office blocks to the grave with you. Do what you want to do with it while you're here today and if you can make people happy - which we have, the supporters are over the moon - all the better."

    Delmege has made friends with footballers, tipping players into property deals, finding jobs for battlers, forming a business partnership with former Balmain player Ben Elias, even giving the legendary Tom Raudonikis $20,000 to buy a thoroughbred. "Tommy rung me up and said, 'Max, you know that horse we bought. It's no good. I sold it for $400,' " laughs Delmege.

    Manly's recruitment manager, Noel Cleal, remembers the lowest point in the club's fortunes. "We were sitting there and we had 22 players on the books and three of them left and Des said: 'Well, where do we go now?' "

    To the player market was the answer. With Delmege's input the club paid "overs" (more than market value) for marquee players such as Brent Kite, Ben Kennedy, Matt Orford, Steve Bell and Jamie Lyon to build a team capable of challenging for the title.

    The days of poker machines and local players are over. Money was the answer to Manly's problems although the NRL chief executive David Gallop cautions investment is not for the faint-hearted.

    "The reality is these ownerships need to be a labour of love because football clubs are notoriously expensive and rarely very profitable," he says.

    Six of the top eight sides this year are privately owned and, of the grand finalists in the last three seasons, only Wests Tigers has a traditional club base.

    The biggest donor has been Rupert Murdoch, who spent more than $500 million on the Super League war to end up with a half share in the NRL and, currently, two clubs. This year pits Delmege and the Penn family against Murdoch's Melbourne Storm. Listen to Delmege talk and it's not hard to imagine who'll get more of a thrill from victory.


    Manly's miraculous resurrection

    Glenn Jackson | September 29, 2007



    The catalyst for Manly's appearance in tomorrow night's NRL grand final appeared ordinary enough at the time: a Christmas dinner among relatives.

    As businessman Scott Penn sat down to break bread with Sea Eagles official Peter Peters, a relative through marriage, at a restaurant in Whale Beach, they discussed for the first time the prospect of privatisation. The seeds for the club's new-found success were sown. Talk about food for thought.

    Speaking about the meal yesterday, Penn, now Manly co-owner, recalled: "We had a chat at Christmas, and I said to him, 'What do you think, do you think it would be possible?', and he said, 'You know what, after what happened with the Northern Eagles, maybe'."

    The club had almost been wrecked by in-fighting throughout the now doomed merger with North Sydney. But discussions over Christmas fare resolved that, on this occasion, the Penn was mightier than the sword.

    So in the new year, Penn sat down with Manly patriarch Ken Arthurson, came up with the privatisation concept, and about six months later, "it was on".

    "I spent about eight weeks a year in the US for a six-year period, and I saw private ownership of teams over there, and always on the plane trip coming back, I'd think, 'Why aren't any of the NRL teams privatised?'," Penn said. "With Super League, pokie tax, and leagues clubs not being able to fund clubs as much as they used to, it had to happen."

    As the architect of the plan, Penn is the figurehead of his family's involvement, but the buck does not stop with him. Father Rick, mother Heather and brother Mark are all heavily involved. The Penn family, most famous for throwing their weight behind Weight Watchers, now own a 40 percent stake in the Sea Eagles.

    Max Delmege also has a 40 per cent stake - it was the property king who rescued the club from insolvency even before that Christmas dinner by putting his surname on the front of every Manly jumper for a cool $1 million.

    "He saved it from extinction back then," Penn said. "But that just plugged the hole. There was the much bigger picture to paint, and we needed a lot more money than that if we were going to be competitive.

    "The privatisation concept was my idea in the first place, and then Max came in with a superior offer, which I'm happy about. We [the Penns] came in a couple of years ago and tipped in a sizeable chunk.

    "At that point we put in a three-year plan, and the end of that three-year plan was top eight, top four, grand final. So we're effectively a year ahead of where we thought we'd be."

    That's not to say it is at all unexpected for the owners, who came together on the very patch of grass tomorrow's game will be played on for a very different season's greeting.

    "We had our season launch at Telstra [Stadium]," Penn said. "We went out on the field with the trophy and said, 'How good would it be if we were back here in the last week of September?' And we're there."

    With the prospect of toasting a title, not just Christmas.

  2. byso

    byso Well-Known Member

    +85 /0
    Max Delmege & Scott Penn Articles in todays SMH

    Great stories. Good thing the Trusty steed carried Max in to re-sign Monas as well ;)
  3. Matabele

    Matabele Well-Known Member

    +516 /14
    Max Delmege & Scott Penn Articles in todays SMH

    Don't underplay the role the Penns have played. Before Delmege bought his stake it was Scott Penn that was spruiking the Crazy Johns Oval to much derision.

    But that was the genesis of the success we're now all enjoying.

Share This Page