By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - American investor Joseph DaGrosa said the clock is ticking on his bid to buy Premier League club Southampton, warning the team's current owners that "time kills all deals".
DaGrosa, who also praised Newcastle United as a target for investors, heads a bid by the Miami-based private equity firm Kapital Football Group to purchase the Saints from current owner, Chinese businessman Gao Jisheng.
Yet he made clear in an interview with Reuters that he feels the asking price is currently too high.
The former owner of French club Girondins de Bordeaux has been in talks with Southampton from before September and praised the club's set-up, but says a deal has to be at a fair price.
"I can’t comment on our negotiations, that would be unfair to the other side, but what I would say is that time kills all deals, that has been my experience in life at least," he said.
"I don’t want to step into my own Vietnam by misunderstanding and misreading the finances of a club and we have to pay a fair price. So, Southampton is a great club, great fans, anyone would be proud to own it and be associated with it but from our perspective it has to come at the right price."
Gao has an 80% majority shareholding in Southampton with British media reporting he has valued the club at 200 million pounds ($276.34 million). Southampton did not respond to a Reuters request for comment from Gao.
DaGrosa had previously held talks with Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, owner of British retail company Frasers Group.
Asked whether Newcastle could be an alternative should he be unable to reach a deal with Southampton, he said the club was attractive to any investor.
"We had preliminary discussions on Newcastle, great club, great fan-base, that was back in 2019. We looked at it, we decided not to move forward, by mutual agreement, we just couldn’t reach an understanding," he said.
"But I think it is a fantastic club and should be on anyone’s shortlist as a potential acquisition target."
DaGrosa believes that the impact of COVID-19 on the football economy means the upcoming transfer window, due to begin in June, offers great potential for clubs with capital to invest and said he would like to get any deal done before that period and certainly not during it.
"There is almost a paralysis when you are in the middle of a (club) acquisition during the summer trading window and I don’t think that is good for any club," he said.
"So we don’t want to be there whether it is with Southampton or any other club. We want to do something before the summer window or immediately following but it has to be the right deal," he added.
DaGrosa views Southampton, or another Premier League club, as the "anchor" in a multi-club ownership model that is increasingly popular among investors, but conceded that deals in football can be a fraught business.
"I think acquisitions of clubs in general are more challenging than the acquisition of most other businesses," he said.
"I think, sellers get very emotional when they are selling their business...
"During that ownership period, you become a fan yourself, you get tied to the community, I have found it, in general, more difficult to negotiate. I am sure (Burnley's American owner) Alan Pace and others have found it difficult, because there is an emotional aspect to the sale of a club that probably doesn’t otherwise exist with most other businesses," he said.
DaGrosa urged Southampton fans not to be swayed by rumours regarding the potential takeover.
"My message to the fans at Southampton, or anywhere, would be -- don’t prejudge either way. Don’t assume it is a good acquisition or a bad acquisition based on hearsay," he said.
($1 = 0.7237 pounds)
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis)