Bidding for Titans enters final stages
THE NRL will not be able to draw a line under the sale of the Titans by the end of their financial year but are confident they will settle on new owners within weeks after interested parties submit final bids for the Gold Coast by today.
The NRL took over ownership of the Titans in early 2015 after the club was placed in voluntary administration by directors.
But the league has long said it is not in the business of owning clubs and had vowed to have both the Titans and Newcastle Knights - which it took over in 2014 - off its books by the end of its financial year on October 31.
The Wests Group will officially assume outright ownership of the Knights on Wednesday after entering into an interim partnership with the NRL in August. But the league will carry the Titans into the new financial year.
The formal sale process has been going for almost two months, with parties conducting due diligence on the business.
There are challenges, including the absence of a major sponsor after Aquis decided against taking up the option on their deal of more than $1 million a season.
But last week's news that star half Ash Taylor had signed a three-year extension will be seen as a bonus by bidders.
Four parties - the Darryl Kelly/Rebecca Frizelle group, North Sydney Bears, Brisbane Bombers and former Salford owner, British billionaire Marwan Koukash - remain in the running for the licence.
A spokesman for the NRL said all consortiums had been given until the end of today to table their bids.
"We will then consider those bids before making a final decision on the ownership," the spokesman said.
"Clearly, we will be looking at the financial aspects but we know that the relationship with the local community and providing stable owners is just as important."
But price will not be the only criteria on which the bids are judged.
Objectives including the best outcome for the game, the Titans and the community will also be considered, although potential owners are in the dark about the weighting each of the criteria will be given.
It's likely to be crucial in the final outcome.
While the Kelly-Frizelle bid is widely considered to be the frontrunner, it is believed other groups have more financial clout, especially the Bears, whose bid team includes Archer Capital boss Peter Wiggs and Gold Coast-based businessman Harry Cheung.
The Bears bid could be a hard sell to Gold Coasters though, with the group set to change the club's colours and moniker if successful.
Kelly said he had no reason to believe his group was favourite but believed he and Frizelle - who have stepped down from their positions on the Titans board during the bid process - have made a compelling case for ownership.
"Our bid is based around the Titans remaining a Gold Coast-based side and being called the Gold Coast Titans moving forward," Kelly said.
"It's for the community of the Gold Coast and the Tweed.
"We've put a very comprehensive business case to (the NRL). Unfortunately it'll take a couple of years to get the business to the point where it'll be contributing back but we've allowed for that in our submission and we're confident that it's viable and it'll be sustainable moving forward."