Mark Attanasio share purchase could signal 'changing of the guard' for Delia Smith at Norwich City

Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones could soon share ownership of Norwich City with American businessman, Mark Attanasio (top left).
Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones could soon share ownership of Norwich City with American businessman, Mark Attanasio (top left). Credit: PA/Norwich City

A "changing of the guard" of the ownership at Norwich City could be on the horizon, a respected football finance expert has claimed, after it emerged that American businessman Mark Attanasio is set to increase his stake in the Championship club.

If approved by shareholders at a meeting on 2 October, the deal would see Milwaukee Brewers owner Attanasio, 65, achieve parity with current majority shareholders Delia Smith and husband Michael Wynn Jones.

The move would allow the group led by Mr Attanasio to attain 195,012 shares - the exact number needed to equal Smith and Wynn Jones' 40% stake.

The remaining 20% will continue to be held by smaller shareholders who will be asked at the meeting whether they are happy to waive their right to a mandatory offer from Mr Attanasio's group for their share or shares.

Special approval was granted by the UK regulatory body, the Takeover Panel, to bypass the rule which normally comes into force when an individual or group reaches the 30% threshold.

Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones first gained ownership of the club in 1996. Credit: PA

If everything goes through smoothly, it means Smith and Wynn Jones will no longer be the majority shareholders at Carrow Road - bringing to an end a 27-year reign.

"I think we've got to prepare for a changing of the guard as far as control of Norwich City Football Club is concerned, and it will be interesting times ahead," football finance expert Kieran Maguire told ITV News Anglia.

"A lot of credit has got to be given to Delia and Michael, but I think they acknowledge that their ability to continue to fund the club is limited and they're looking for alternative sources."

Mr Maguire also added the move would probably signal the start of "some form of succession planning", but any full transition of power could still be a long way off.

"I think it gives the opportunity at some point for Delia to move on, perhaps to more of an ambassadorial role, and to continue to reduce her stake in the club," he said.

"It doesn't necessarily mean that she'll be wanting money from it - it could be that the club will at some point in time issue some further shares, and effectively, the cake will grow but Delia's slice of it will decrease as a consequence."

Analysis from ITV News Anglia's Andy Ward

Carrow Road, the home of Norwich City. Credit: PA

Today's developments are certainly significant in that this could signal the end of an era.

Delia and Michael have been part of the furniture at Carrow Road ever since they first joined the club's board in 1996.

There's been success, with the club securing multiple promotions, but plenty of relegation heartbreak as well.

Establishing the club in the Premier League has proved to be a real challenge and the Canaries' longest stint in the top flight has been just three seasons under their ownership.

Many fans have voiced their frustration at the club's self-funding model, which largely centres around selling players to fund new signings, but don't expect Mr Attanasio to vastly change this approach.

It could still be some time before Mr Attanasio makes his move to try to gain overall control, with the American millionaire previously admitting that he's still got a lot to learn about the ins and outs of English football.

For now, he's happy to remain in the background, being hands on with the running of the club, but with the safety net of still having Delia and Michael around to make key footballing decisions.

What's clear is that a succession plan is in place - it may just take a while to materialise.

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