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St Johnstone controlling interest split 9 ways as Adam Webb reveals long-term dreams

The new era at McDiarmid Park means new investment and new expertise.

Adam Webb has given more details about the new-look ownership structure at St Johnstone.
Adam Webb has given more details about the new-look ownership structure at St Johnstone. Image: SNS.

St Johnstone’s ownership model will be unique to Scottish football – as Adam Webb confirmed EIGHT other Americans have signed up to be part of the Perth club’s new era.

And Webb, the figurehead at the top of the leadership structure, is confident he’s assembled an off-pitch team with the expertise to enable the Perth club to punch its weight at the top of Scottish football for many years to come.

The 53-year-old lawyer is now the majority shareholder – both of St Johnstone as a whole and the company that bought out Geoff Brown’s 76% stake.

He believes having one “decisive” voice will be key to successful stewardship in the post-Brown era.

But so too will the input of eight (or more) associates, whose investment and skillsets Webb has elaborated upon.

“When we bought Geoff’s shares it was 100% my ownership,” he explained. “Saints in America LLC was 100% owned by me.

“I have eight investors lined up who will be announced later this week.

“Each of them have purchased 5% or less of that ownership of Saints in America LLC.

“So I now have 70% of that.

“They are my father and professionals from the United States.

“It’s a group of folk who will really boost the club.

Adam Webb (left) was accompanied by associate Matt Klase watching St Johnstone play Ross County in February.
Adam Webb (left) was accompanied by associate Matt Klase watching St Johnstone play Ross County in February. Image: PPA.

“We’ve got some lawyers – my two current partners (Matt Klase and Franklin Lemond) are both investors.

“We have a couple of medical doctors and a couple of business people.

“One of them had a network of medical offices that he recently sold.

“An entrepreneurial business mindset is probably most valuable.

“I’m all about brain-storming and getting ideas out there and adopt the best ones.

“I’ll give you an example – we’ve got to have a shop in Perth.

“We’ve got the Stone of Destiny in the city centre, and a lot more tourist traffic to take advantage of.

“What’s good about all these guys is that they are high in their field.

“These are really accomplished people.

“I would even consider additional minority investors. The only condition is there needs to be a decisive majority owner at all times. It doesn’t have to be me but the intention is it will be me for a long time.”

New CEO will soon be a priority

Webb confirmed Stan Harris, whose title has been changed from CEO to chairman, won’t be staying at the club for long.

“Stan will continue as chairman with a day to day operational leadership role,” he said.

“When Stan gives us the indication that he’s going to move on – which won’t be that far in the future, unfortunately – we will be out there looking for a really competent and experienced CEO.

Geoff Brown and Stan Harris.
Geoff Brown and Stan Harris. Image: SNS.

“I’m not ruling out that I might step into the chairman’s role down the line.

“It’s possible to be chairman even if you’re not here all the time and has happened before.

“I’ve been advised by some people that would be the right call, even now.

“But we’re going to stick with the current operational leadership for a smooth transition and then we can make changes when they’re warranted in the months ahead.”

It will be a four-man board that holds its first meeting inside McDiarmid Park on Friday.

But that may soon change also.

“At this time nobody from the investor group is going on the board,” said Webb.

“It’s a commitment.

“But if they have good ideas and time on their hands I would be open to that.

“Matt Klase is one of our investors. He flew over with me in February and has been doing due diligence on the club.

“He’s really involved and would make a great board member.

“It’s an option down the line.

“Our board members just now are Roddy (Grant), Alan (Storrar) and Stan. And I’ll be joining the board.”

Perth base

Webb will split his time between his Atlanta home and Scotland and has already bought a home in the Fair City.

“We have a new house in Perth that we are slowly and surely remodelling and furnishing,” he said.

“Having a base here is very important.

“Putting down roots in the community is symbolically important but I think it’s important for quality of life.

“If you want to come over several times a year, spending a week or two at a time, it’s nice to have a central location.

“I want all the owners and families to come over as much as possible.

“They are going to be here spending money in the city. Hopefully others, friends, and friends of friends will do the same.”

Adam Webb.
Adam Webb. Image: SNS.

Webb spoke of decades in charge of Saints rather than years, with grounded aspirations as the foundation.

“When you’re in the Scottish Premiership you don’t have the dreams you might have in other leagues,” he explained.

“No-one can say they’re going to win the league because there’s the Old Firm sitting there.

“No-one wants to be seen as a silly dreamer.

“Realistic dreams are qualifying for Europe and cup wins (we’ve done that three times in the last decade so that’s do-able).

“Can we beat Celtic and Rangers sometimes and give them a hell of a game on other occasions? Yes.

“Putting another 1,000 fans on the gate over the next few years would be fantastic.

“Staying in the Premiership isn’t a dream, it’s essential to continued success. We’ve got to continue that or it is failure.”

Back in the top six

The last three seasons of toil and over-their-shoulder stress have been a break from what had become the norm under Derek McInnes, Steve Lomas, Tommy Wright and Callum Davidson.

Webb is determined that the recent sequence of drain-circling campaigns will be broken.

“The dream for this year is top six,” he said.

“I don’t know if it’s realistic but I like the excitement building at the club and the signings Craig (Levein) is making.

“We’ll see what we’ve got in the cup games.

“I do think top six is an aspirational goal and a realistic goal.”

Aaron Essel.
Aaron Essel made a big impression as a St Johnstone trialist. Image: PPA.

Long-term achievement won’t be facilitated by short-term financial excess.

“In my study of the game, owners who come in and spend then don’t have immediate success have a breaking point even if they’re super-wealthy,” said Webb.

“After five years, eight years or whatever they throw in the towel.

“So that would be a mistake.

“There are a lot of resources behind our ownership group and funds will be available, but for structural improvements which will pay dividends down the line.

“We won’t just throw money at player payroll and get stuck with contracts which no longer make sense.

“We want to build up and use the academy, bring through players and raise money through player sales – that would be more our model.

“If I decide or any of the other investors decide to kick in, we will and we are prepared to do that.

“But that’s not the model we’re working to.

“We don’t intend to lose money but that’s the historical norm on an annual basis in the UK.

“That is anticipated. Myself and the other investors are well-schooled in this history.

“Ultimately, do I think we’ll leave the club as a much more valuable entity? Absolutely.

“That may be 20, 30 or 50 years from now because we certainly have no intention of turning the club over in any amount of time.

“I’m 53 so if I was to have a similar vintage to Geoff, we’ve got a long way to go at it.

“We’re not going to try to make money out of this club.

“It’s about gradually building revenue, not taking it out.

“We’re not going to make grand promises because you don’t want to disappoint folks.

“But hopefully in five years’ time people will be able to say the club has pushed on.”