The ownership of the Newcastle Knights is up for grabs after Nathan Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group failed on Monday to meet a deadline to provide a new $10.52 million bank guarantee.
The guarantee, which was to have provided a financial safety net for the Knights until January 31 next year, was due by 5pm.
By missing that deadline, Tinkler has technically defaulted on the terms and conditions of the privatisation agreement HSG signed in August 2011, clearing the way for the Knights Members' Club to begin the process to buy back Newcastle’s National Rugby League club for $1.
The members' club did not exercise that option immediately and has instead entered into talks with HSG brokered by the National Rugby League.
The club will continue to be administered by HSG while the talks continue.
In a statement issued at 5.30pm on Monday, the NRL said it would be ‘‘business as usual at the Knights while further talks are held on the club’s future ownership and operating model’’.
Tony Crawford, the NRL head of club and state services, said the members' club and HSG had agreed to hold off any further action in relation to the club’s ownership while the NRL holds talks with both parties.
‘‘The members' club has agreed to defer any move to transfer the ownership of the club so commercial discussions can take place. Those discussions will be led by the NRL,’’ Crawford said.
‘‘In the meantime, it is business as usual for the Newcastle Knights. This will give all parties a chance to explore all options which are in the long-term interests of the Knights.’’
The NRL said negotiations would be confidential, could take some time to be completed, and none of the parties will make any public comment until they are completed.
The Knights issued a statement shortly after 5.30pm saying the NRL, HSG and members' club were ‘‘continuing to work through a unified business model for the Newcastle Knights’’.
As well as re-issuing the NRL statement, the Knights said they ‘‘remain focused on the operations of the club and will not be involved throughout the confidential negotiation process’’.
‘‘As Knights’ management is not involved in the process, there will be no further comment from the club until negotiations are complete,’’ the Knights said.
‘‘The bank guarantee ($10.52 million) has been transferred into a joint-signatory bank account between the HSG and members' club.’’
Knights Members' Club chairman Nick Dan said through a spokesperson that he would not comment about developments until the end of the week.
Dan accessed the existing bank guarantee late last week by depositing cheques of $10.3 million from Westpac and $220,000 from the Greater Newcastle Building Society into a joint-signatory account.
HSG chief executive Troy Palmer offered no comment when contacted by the Newcastle Herald on Monday .
Knights chairman Paul Harragon indicated in a television interview on Sunday that changes to the club’s ownership and management structure were imminent.
‘‘There will be an announcement in the next week or two in respects to a reformation of the club, that’s true,’’ Harragon told The Sunday Footy Show.
‘‘It is quite a challenging time in its own right. I would say time frame-wise in the next week or two there will be an announcement.’’