Aberdeen Football Club has confirmed that vice-chairman Dave Cormack will take the helm in a major shake-up of the board – paving the way for a new partnership with US Major League Soccer club Atlanta United.
Chairman Stewart Milne has announced he plans to stand down after 22 years at the top as part of a planned succession process that will pave the way for fresh investment.
Lifelong Dons fan Mr Cormack will take over immediately after the club’s annual meeting on December 16.
Mr Milne – who has seen his club win the Scottish League Cup and reach eight cup semi-finals – said: “For four years, we’ve been working on a succession plan. It’s been no easy task to find the right person who is willing to take on the onerous role of chairman, with responsibility for both the financial health and growth of the club.
“In bringing Dave onto the board and then appointing him vice-chairman, we viewed him as the natural successor. He qualifies on both counts. He is prepared to take on the commitment and has already proved his ability to secure significant new investment. Importantly, he is passionate about Aberdeen and the club.”
American businessman Mr Cormack has already delivered £11.2million of new investment to the club, including £1.4million for the Aberdeen FC Community Trust.
He will front a further £5million of investment, which will provide working capital, for the club’s day-to-day operation.
Mr Milne said that following the completion of the first phase of Kingsford, the £45million stadium for the Dons at Kingswells, the time is right to step aside.
“I have always said I would relinquish the reins when the right opportunity arose and I believe that time has now come,” he said. “I’m proud to have had the opportunity to lead the club I love for over two decades. It’s been a real privilege but not without its challenges. Like the fans, I’ve shared in a rollercoaster of emotions from pure joy and exhilaration through to frustration and despair.
“We have been in a consistently healthier position for several years now and I’m pleased to be able to hand the club over to safe hands in the knowledge that we are debt-free and have more than doubled revenues from around £7.8million in 2013 to almost £16 million today.
“The opening of the £12million Cormack Park represents the completion of phase one of our vision for a new home. We’ve achieved this while still increasing the first team budget to its highest level yet and continuing to invest in our youth programme. Our annual spend on the overall football operation now amounts to £9million.”
Mr Milne added that it was these factors that had helped secure investment from Mr Cormack and his group of investors, including Tom Crotty, Roger Lee and now AMB Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of Atlanta United.
Mr Cormack said: “As an Aberdonian and lifelong Dons fan, I’m honoured and privileged to become chairman of the famous Aberdeen. I’m also pleased to be able to announce a strategic partnership with Atlanta United, details of which will be announced tomorrow, and further investment from additional partners.
“Today, however, I’d like to focus on paying tribute to Stewart. During more than 20 years in the driving seat, he has had to deal with some turbulent times, both at the club and within Scottish football. Thanks to his astute commercial acumen, his financial contributions and an unwavering loyalty, both as a chairman and a fan, he has successfully led the club through those times, having to make difficult decisions along the way. Not all of these have been popular among fans, but they have helped to get the club into a good position on and off the pitch. I am very pleased that he has agreed to stay on the board in a non-executive capacity to ensure a smooth transition.
“There are some real challenges ahead but, with the support of my fellow directors and new investors, along with our fans, we will do our utmost to deliver success which, at the end of the day, is measured by the team’s performance. The new investment and this partnership with Atlanta will allow us to punch above our weight, aspiring to attain UEFA’s top 100 status, and trying to level the playing field against significantly higher income generated by Celtic and Rangers.”
Atlanta United are a Major League Soccer franchise founded in 2014 and owned by Arthur Blank, who also runs the city’s NFL team the Atlanta Falcons.
The two teams share the $1.6billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opened in 2017 and has a maximum capacity of 75,000.
United have enjoyed a fruitful rise in MLS, making the play-offs in each of the last three seasons. They won the Eastern Conference play-offs and the MLS Cup in 2018, adding the US Open Cup to their trophy haul this year.
Their current manager is former Ajax and Barcelona defender Frank De Boer, with ex-Rangers and Fulham player Carlos Bocanegra is the club’s technical director. They sold Paraguay international Miguel Almiron to Newcastle United for a reported £21million in January while former Premier League players Brad Guzan and Kenwyne Jones have turned out in the red and black.
Their connection with the Dons is two-fold. Former Aberdeen midfielder Stephen Glass, who started his career at Pittodrie and played there until 1998, is United’s second-team head coach, while the Dons also signed Jon Gallagher on loan from the franchise this summer.
Gallagher himself had previous connections to Aberdeen, having been coached by legendary Dons goalkeeper Bobby Clark during his time at US college Notre Dame.