Nathan Tinkler has officially relinquished his ownership of the Newcastle Knights.
After months of protracted negotiations, Tinkler has confirmed in a statement that he will end his three-year association with the NRL club.
The Tinkler Group chairman confirmed that Hunter Sports Group will have nothing further to do with the running of the Knights club, and the Knights Members Club are now in a position to take over.
“This negotiation has dragged on for over 10 weeks and it is clear the Members Club has stalled the process,” Tinkler said in the statement.
“After injecting over $20 million of my own money it is time to stand aside, and hopefully the Knights will prosper and not revert to the old management style and formula that almost sent the club into liquidation three years ago.”
Tinkler’s ownership of the Knights became close to untenable last Friday when he failed to pay up to 20 staff and players on time.
That led to the Knights Members Club moving to take back control of the club, and threatening to take legal action against Tinkler if the mining magnate didn’t comply.
The NRL met with Hunter Sports Group on Monday and were determined to settle the matter outside of the courts.
In Tinkler’s statement he claimed the Knights were in a better position than when he took them over and said reports of the club’s debt have been greatly exaggerated.
“Since HSG took over the Knights, we have lifted the annual spend of football operations to be over $3 million above the average NRL club,” he said.
“Commercial reality will mean staffing numbers will now need to be reviewed, grants cut to the junior League programmes and the local Newcastle competition.
“I have done my bit for the town by investing more than $20 million and saving the Knights from liquidation and now it is time for someone else to step up to the plate.
“The debts of the club are substantially less than the $10.5 million, which is currently sitting in a bank account and not earning interest.”
Tinkler said he wants to make the transition a smooth one but blamed the Knights Members Club for slowing down the process.
“The club is in a far better position than it was when HSG took over, with the club then drowning in $7 million of debt, inadequate administration facilities and no formal training facility,” he said.
Earlier this week, Knights coach Wayne Bennett – who is contracted to HSG, not the Knights – said he was “waiting and seeing” where the ownership saga would lead with regards to his coaching tenure.
“I’m not contracted to the Knights and there’s a number of my staff involved in that as well,” he said.
“So we just have to wait and see what happens. It won’t be my call whether I want to stay or not, it will be their call.
“I don’t know who is going to own it so I don’t know what’s going to happen. I am just waiting and seeing.”