New owners pledge to turn Bulls around as Sutcliffe and Khan depart (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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New owners pledge to turn Bulls around as Sutcliffe and Khan depart
A hard-headed businessman has vowed to turn around the fortunes of the Bradford Bulls after stepping in as its new co-owner.
Mark Moore, the boss of Bradford-based online bed and mattress retailer BedzRus, said he aimed to get the Super League club turning a profit and pledged to run it with his head, not his heart.
Restaurant owner Omar Khan and former Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe both dramatically stepped down from their roles as co-chairmen of the club yesterday.
After a difficult year in charge, Mr Khan announced he was quitting on the grounds of ill health and has severed all ties with the club along with Bradford South MP Mr Sutcliffe and fellow director Vipin Joshi.
Mr Moore and the club’s general manager, Ryan Whitcut, are now poised to take joint ownership of the Bulls, subject to approval from the Rugby Football League.
They have struck a deal with Mr Khan, who along with Mr Sutcliffe took control of the club just over 12 months ago.
Mr Moore said yesterday that no financial details of the sale could be revealed due to a confidentiality agreement that was in place with Mr Khan.
But the club will continue to trade as OK Bulls Limited and Mr Moore, who originally hails from London and runs a number of online retail operations under his BedzRus umbrella, is confident he and Mr Whitcut can prove a success.
Mr Moore admitted he was “not a rugby man and more of a business mind”, and said they aimed to get the club turning a profit soon.
He said: “Do we have a target for when we hope to break even and turn a profit? Yes.
“When will it be achieved? Hopefully tomorrow, but it could be in a year’s time.
“At the end of the day it’s a business and needs to be run as such – and we will do that.
“The game is not in my heart – it is for business and the business has to be sustained this year, next year and three or four years’ time.”
Mr Moore, 42, a father-of-five based in Shelf, who first came to Bradford almost 25 years ago, has already appointed Robbie Hunter-Paul, the club’s deputy director, in the role of chief executive.
He and Mr Whitcut, the Bulls’ general manager, will become the club’s only two directors and will meet with the RFL today as they bid to seal the deal.
They are also hoping that more investors will join them. They are aiming to assemble a board of 14, and said three or four potential new investors were already being lined up.
Mr Whitcut said: “Myself and Mark have gone into it on a 50-50 basis but we are talking to potential investors over the coming weeks, although we’re not reliant on other investors coming in.”
The pair said that wages would be paid on time this month after delays in July and August and Mr Moore believes his retail experience can help the Bulls to grow as a business.
He aims to make greater use of the Coral Stand at the Provident Stadium and said he hoped to sell between six and ten thousand season tickets. Mr Moore said: “The main task at the moment is season ticket sales and to try and boost the corporate side of the business.
“I want to get the Coral Stand in use 365 days a year, hosting corporate events.
“We are a commercial entity and we live and die by our supporters and by our business.
“It’s about getting bums on seats, getting money coming in from the corporate side of it and taking it from there.”
Mr Moore said tickets were selling well so far.
He said: “Ryan and I are both business people and he has different interests to what I have.
“I have the retail and IT experience and Ryan has more experience on the commercial and corporate entertainment side of it.
“We have to make better use of the Coral Stand in terms of conference and banqueting.
“The retail shop, the Coral Stand and the concerts we have planned for next year, that’s where the main profit margins will come from.
“We have a few other things up our sleeves that will generate revenue for the club, so it’s not just going to be about the rugby.”
Mr Moore said he had gradually started getting more involved with the club since BedzRus agreed a two-year deal to sponsor the Poplar terrace at the Provident Stadium in May.
He said: “I think any business should be run with your heart and your head but with your head first and let your heart enjoy it.
“But I’m learning and I am picking it up. I’ve been coming to games here for over a decade and have been coming to the annual golf days, so quietly I’ve been associated with the club.
“It’s a family club and that’s why I decided to come on board as a sponsor earlier this year.
“BedzRus is an internet business so it runs itself really, so there will be a lot of time spent here initially to get the new structure in place before we kick off the new season in February.”
Mr Moore said he hoped that Francis Cummins’ team, who missed out on the play-offs for the fifth successive year in 2013, can challenge strongly for a play-off spot next term.
He added: “I don’t have a wealth of expertise on the players we’ve got but the ones we’ve got coming in, and the ones we plan to announce, I’d very surprised if we’re not in the top five and maybe even higher.”
An RFL spokesman confirmed that Bradford Bulls had notified them of the proposed change of ownership and said the governing body would be meeting Mr Whitcut and Mr Moore today.
The spokesman said: “We have asked the proposed new owners of Bradford Bulls to supply detailed financial information and a business plan for the company and we will be discussing this with them at a meeting today.
“Any change of control of Bradford Bulls will require the approval of the RFL’s independent board of directors.”
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