HAVING spent just shy of four decades at St Johnstone and having helped to transform them from a third tier club on the brink of bankruptcy to a top flight outfit capable of lifting major honours in that time, Geoff Brown OBE is not about to sell up to the first person who meets his asking price.

The local builder, who took over at Muirton Park away back in 1986, will doubtless have done his due diligence on Adam Webb, the American lawyer who is poised to buy a 75 per cent shareholding, in recent months.

Precious little is presently known about Webb other than he is a Harvard-educated and Atlanta-based litigation expert who purchased a 10 per cent stake in English League One minnows Cambridge United three years ago.

However, Saints supporters can be quietly confident he will, if he receives the necessary clearance from the English Football League and the Scottish Football Association, not wreak the sort of havoc which so many disreputable characters have at so many of this country’s most famous sporting institutions in years gone by.

Honorary president Brown will, it is safe to assume, have demanded and received assurances that St Johnstone will be run in a sustainable manner, that money will be invested in both the squad and infrastructure and that on-field excellence, not turning a profit, will be a priority, before sanctioning the prospective takeover.

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That was certainly the case when Sir Tom Farmer offloaded his majority stake in Hibernian to the Peru-born, United States-based businessman Ron Gordon back in 2019. The Kwik Fit founder was only prepared to end his 28 year involvement after being given guarantees about the late media tycoon’s plans.

The Easter Road club may have struggled since. They have had as many managers in the past five years as VAR has made mistakes in the cinch Premiership this season. Silverware has eluded them.

The Herald: Not even the most disillusioned Hibee, though, can be concerned about the intentions of their hierarchy. They have meant well even if they have not necessarily done particularly well.

The £6m which was ploughed into the capital strugglers by the Black Knight FC consortium fronted by Texan billionaire Bill Foley – the owner of Premier League team Bournemouth – in February in return for a 25 per cent stake was also widely welcomed down Leith way.

All that said, it must be comforting for fans of Aberdeen, Celtic, Kilmarnock, Rangers and Ross County to have highly professional, hugely successful and independently wealthy fans like Dave Cormack, Dermot Desmond, Billie Bowie, John Bennett and Roy MacGregor respectively holding sway.

They understand their custodians have an emotional attachment not just a financial one and are accountable to them for their actions.

Followers of Hearts and St Mirren, meanwhile, sleep soundly at night knowing that collectively they are the major powerbrokers in the Tynecastle and SMISA Stadium clubs and do not have to concern themselves about the whims of some erratic and mysterious overseas owner.

That is something which supporters of many of the biggest clubs across Europe have had to learn how to deal with as the modern game at the highest level has become increasingly dominated by big business.

Punters are primarily interested in their team performing well on the park and care little about the nationality of those who are funding things or the wisdom of the corporate strategy if they are.

They were dancing in the streets of Newcastle back in 2021 when the Saudi Public Investment Fund bought out Mike Ashley at United for £300m. Accusations of “sportswashing”? They were largely ignored.

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This global trend is, with Motherwell at an advanced stage of negotiations with a “US-based family” and Dundee agreeing a strategic partnership with Burnley backers ALK Capital at the start of the year, slowly but surely creeping into the Scottish football, albeit on not such a grand scale.  

The Herald: Any investment in the game here is to be warmly welcomed in this challenging economic climate. Still, there should be a wariness about the increasing influence of foreign benefactors all the same.

David Low, the Glasgow financier who was a driving force behind the Fergus McCann buyout of his boyhood heroes Celtic in 1994, warned of the dangers in these pages last year when he outlined why he had thrown his weight behind an ambitious Celtic Trust scheme to increase the shareholding of ordinary fans in the Glasgow giants.

“Football has changed in the last 40 years and it has changed forever,” he said. “It is now about money. Everything is much more serious, much more professional, much bigger and even much more corrupt.

“Before money came in, it was the local butcher, baker and candlestick maker who owned clubs. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was local millionaires. Now, a further generation on, it is billionaires.

“They are like trophies, assets, for them. They are not really interested in success, they are interested in breaking even. Ideally, the corporate owner of a football club wants to get as much as possible for their stake.”

The end of the era when the local-boy-made-good ran his hometown heroes may well be mourned in the years ahead.