If you’re anything like me, your heart would have skipped a beat earlier today. Seeing the words “club statement” feature in a tweet from Argyle with no further context is enough to send anyone’s head into a spin. Things have seemed so serene off the pitch in recent years, at least compared to the previous decade, so what could possibly be of such relevance that a statement was required in Simon Hallett’s perfect little Home Park project?
Luckily, we needn’t have worried. The news of a significant investment in Plymouth Argyle by a US-based group seems, on the face of it at least, to be a sensational development for the club.
There can always be trepidation when previously unheard-of entities join the board of a football club. Yasuaki Kagami did a fine job planting that seed of doubt. But in this situation Argyle, and Hallett in particular, look to have played a blinder. The structure of the board following the investment, as well as the individuals involved, make this an awfully exciting time to be an Argyle supporter.
This isn’t a sudden buyout taking Argyle into the unknown. Instead, the Argyle Green group led by Michael Mincberg, founder of Florida-based real estate firm Sight Development, have purchased a 20% share in the club. It means of course that Hallett remains the majority shareholder at Argyle for the foreseeable future, so the positive momentum of recent years can be sustained. According to the club statement, Mincberg’s place on the board was secured with a £4 million investment that will aid Argyle in the development of club facilities.
And that’s important – there’s no loan secured against the club, no hint of a leveraged buyout, but simply a firm pumping money into the club in return for shares. The risks are significantly lessened this way, and can benefit all parties. Kieran Maguire, author of The Price of Football and co-host of a podcast with the same name, inferred that this was always part of the plan. By investing in Argyle’s facilities and getting shares in return, Mincberg’s group could end up seeing a decent return on that investment. So Argyle end up with improved facilities, the club’s value grows, and the new investors get a slice of the pie. Everyone wins, and what’s not to love?
A minority stake seems to have been the preferred course of action for some time. If money invested into academy and other infrastructure then could see a return on investment over time https://t.co/cueGWVJtv3
— Kieran Maguire (@KieranMaguire) August 2, 2022
Meanwhile, whilst Mincberg and the Argyle Green group do remain a relative unknown, the initial insights we have on them are overwhelmingly encouraging. In the statement’s own words, Hallett has spent the “best part of a year” with Mincberg and his brother, David, whose qualification as a sports lawyer do no harm to any thoughts on the group’s experience in the field. Evidently, this was not a rushed decision. Hallett has proved across his time at Home Park that he has Argyle’s best interests at heart, and it is abundantly clear that due diligence was carried out before today’s big announcement.
Naturally, parallels are being drawn between Argyle Green’s investment and Hallett’s own journey to the boardroom. Back in 2016, Hallett joined the ranks as a minority shareholder under then-chairman James Brent. Across the next couple of years, Hallett slowly but surely increased his stake in the club with further investment, before eventually taking over from Brent in the opening week of the 2018/19 season.
Four years later, again in the first week of a new season, another minority shareholder is on board. And it could well be with a view to making that stake more significant at some point down the road. Hallett himself has mentioned previously that Argyle would need more investment to compete should they make it to the Championship, something that wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility a matter of months ago. Several of the investors involved were present as Argyle beat Portsmouth 1-0 back in March, and Argyle subsequently missing out on the play-offs evidently hasn’t put any of them off.
This has plainly been in the pipeline for some time. Mincberg’s group has been looking for an appropriate club to accept investment, and Argyle looking for funds to push to the next level. Add in Plymouth’s links to the US, and it really does appear to be a match made in heaven. Could Mincberg, and Argyle Green’s investment, be part of Hallett’s exit plan, allowing another face to take the club to new heights? Only time will tell.
Whatever happens from here, something dramatic is brewing at Home Park. It’s a thrilling time to support the Greens, and you certainly won’t want to miss the next moment.