Meet the New Owner – Simon Orange
Nobody with even a remote interest in rugby can have missed the new buzz around Sale Sharks pre-season with a new owner and new Board. The Club’s attitude to promoting the sport and involving their supporters however hasn’t changed and the club were quick to announce an open afternoon at their training ground, Carrington where fans could come and meet the Board and players.
It was a great afternoon – and the promised rain stayed away. The BBQ was excellent, the Bar open (with Dimes himself offering to go to the off license if it ran out!) and the fans enjoyed watching the squad train and meeting the players and Board throughout the afternoon. As you might expect RugbyUnited Sale Sharks took the opportunity to take the children and whilst we were there had a long chat with new owner, Simon Orange*.
I started by asking him what makes you wake up one morning and decide to buy a Premiership rugby club. Perhaps not surprisingly he explained it hadn’t exactly worked like that and had been a decision he’d worked up over the last 25 years. He had no experience of the game until a friend took him to watch Sale Sharks play 25 years ago and he’d been immediately hooked on the action and the camaraderie between fans and players. He told me it was much better than football, which is a brave statement to make in Manchester! Having developed an interest he thought about investing twice before but had not felt the time was right for either him or the club previously. However once he knew it was Brian Kennedy’s intention to sell he moved quite quickly into discussions and began to sound out his new Board members.
A clear strategy then? Absolutely - you don’t build and develop a highly successful company like CorpAcq ** without having clear business strategies in place and whilst Sale Sharks is a personal interest Simon is very clear that he intends to use his (and the Board’s) business skills to develop Sale Sharks into a sustainable club that entertains, is successful but also profitable. Whilst Simon sees significant investment available as required he also firmly believes that the club needs to achieve and then maintain top 4 Premiership placings every season and attract a bigger fan base. The new Board has been built to support that aim and he’s very clear that all the players will need to understand that, both on and interestingly off the pitch. I expect unrivalled access for all fans to players this season with plans already underway for a new marquee outside the ground to enable players, Board and fans to mingle after each game. Certainly there was a great vibe yesterday with hundreds of selfies, autographs and just general chat going on. The players certainly seemed to enjoy it as much as the fans. Simon was keen to acknowledge the contribution made by his predecessor, Brian Kennedy and talked openly about the great job he had done in often difficult financial circumstances.
You only have to see Simon and Dimes together to see the chemistry between the two and he was quick to dismiss any lingering concerns fans may have about Dimes position within the club. Dimes is seen as absolutely pivotal to taking the club forward on and off the field.
With the news of Josh Beaumont and Mike Haley’s call ups for England announced this week it was time to get Simon’s views on the squad and how he sees it developing in the near and medium term. There is a lot of excitement around this new team and the young players in particular. Simon praised both Beaumont and Haley including their focus on coming back from injuries strongly. The Curry twins are seen as rising stars and indeed it was difficult to tell them apart yesterday, especially as they even have matching boots. Prop Kieran Longbottom is Simon’s big tip to keep an eye on, with him confidently anticipating England duty next season. Cameron Nield, George Nott, Dan Mugford, Tom Arscott and Will Addison all got bigmentions with the club seeing them increasingly emerging on European and national levels. AJ MacGinty has greatly impressed everyone in training with his dedication, skills and calm level headed attitude and he certainly seemed to be thriving on it yesterday.
Peter Stringer has to be a role model for any inspiring athlete (in any sport) and Simon praised his work ethic and approach at all levels stating he was as fit as he’s ever been. He also talked about how he, the experienced Mike Phillips and James Mitchell had gelled and were working closely together. Mike Phillips has settled in well and Simon was also pleased with Lou Reed who’s been looking sharp in training. The experience and strength of Halani’Aulika is welcomed whilst Simon went on to call the Fridge the ‘best in the game’ at what he does. He was also very pleased that TJ Ioane had committed to the club.
Going into the 7s finals at the weekend we had to discuss Paolo Odogwu’s explosive performances and whether there was a chance the youngster would move up this season. (We lost about 10 minutes discussing his silky, sevens skills). Fans will be delighted to know that he will be and hopefully will make the same mark NevEdwards did last season. He looked (as my son put it) ‘absolutely ripped’ in training yesterday.
So any signings to come? Simon didn’t think so although he stressed that would be up to Dimes. The general feeling is that the squad is strong with a lot of youngsters ready for their chance and able to provide depth. He admitted there had been thoughts around Kyle Eastmond and when pushed about Ryan Hall, said he wasn’t aware of any discussions. He felt it was unlikely because it would mean a November release. Personally he’d like 1 more Centre and confirmed the money is there for more signings should Dimes see fit.
The Academy at Sale Sharks has always been a strength and Simon detailed plans to continue and develop that. Indeed it was impressive that in talking through the squad he knew the Jets players as thoroughly as the first team. Dermot Power on the Board will be strengthening links at a grassroots level to enable that development to continue. That led us on to discuss the facilities at Carrington itself and Simon confirmed that building work was planned to support future developments.
The final question was one I’d been saving and had been promised donations to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital if I asked it so with a deep breath I asked him ‘Could it be magic?’ With a wry smile Simon said he certainly hoped so and that it wouldn’t be from any lack of effort. (£100 on its way to Alder Hey – thank you everyone).
With that – we did the photo (thanks Annabelle) and after he chatted to the children he ambled off to chat to more supporters.
It was a great afternoon – thanks as ever go to Dave Swanton and Stephen Thomas who always go out of their way to look after me.
#RugbyUnited – Sale Sharks
Simon established CorpAcq in 2006 and recently returned to the Board to oversee the company’s next growth phase. He identifies and negotiates its acquisitions, in conjunction with Corporate Finance partners, and drives funding and strategic development and partnership.
Over the last 20 years, Simon has been involved in funding and managing businesses and has overseen the creation and growth of a number of ventures. Some of these ventures have been sold to companies trading on the NASDAQ and London Stock Exchange. In addition to CorpAcq, he is the majority shareholder and Director of CaviTech Solutions, a company specialising in the manufacture of complex moulds based in Cleveleys. He is also Founder Investor and Director of Powder Bowl Trading, a company supplying food products to major retailers. He is also a Founding Member of Cicero Consulting Group based in NYC.
Simon lives in Bowdon with his wife Michelle. He plays golf, football and has races Mazda MX-5’s in the BRSCC.
CorpAcq was formed in 2006 and is now one of the fastest growing businesses in the UK. They currently hold in excess of 14 different businesses within the group which produces a combined turnover of over £150m.
They are a long-term investor in successful businesses. They have a proven operational management team and a track record of consistent profitability, demonstrated over a number of years