KNIGHTS chairman Brian McGuigan says it remains to be seen if a proposed syndicate of local businessmen can raise the funds necessary to take over Newcastle’sstruggling NRL franchise.
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Since last week’s announcement that the NRL had effectively come up empty after athree-month quest to sell the Knights, news has emerged of a consortium of “concerned individuals” based in the Hunter who have kicked off negotiations with the governing body.

Their plan is to form a joint venture that would rely heavily on community involvement, hence providing the Novocastrian faithful with a chance to regain –at least partially – ownership of the clubtheyrelinquished in March, 2011, with the historic vote that ratified Nathan Tinkler’s takeover.

McGuigan said he was optimistic the consortium’s proposal “has got legs” and featured business people of “great experience’’.

But he added that it was still very much in the conceptual stages and would have to overcomesignificant logistical hurdles, in particular attracting other investors.

“The good thing about the consortium is that it is of Newcastle origin,’’ McGuigan told the Herald.

“That, for me, fulfils a primary requirement. However, I am a little concerned about thecapacity of the idea to raise quite a bit of money from a number of different people … we’ve got to make sure the people have adequate availability of money should we get into any issues.’’

It is understood the syndicate’s members includemulti-millionaires who are willing to contribute towards start-up capital. But McGuigan said they were still banking on“a majorcontribution” from other sources.

“I just wonder whether there are enough people of enough dedication in the community at large,’’ McGuigan said.

“There would have to be a period of fund raising to put it on the map.

“There are key people in the syndicate, and I won’t mention names because it’s private and confidential, but those people are prudent and able business people.

“But whether they have the capacity to get enough shareholders into their proposal is perhaps the main concern about their bid.’’

McGuigan said it might take several months for the would-be syndicate to verify whether or not their plan was viable. He said“it was one of the late bids that came in, and therefore needed a bit more time for the NRL to explore it.

“Their proposal, while a broad brush, needs to be better defined and organised, and the NRL needs to look at it first, and then the rest of us need to look at it thereafter.

CAUTIOUS: Knights chairman Brian McGuigan

“I would say that, while it seems as though it’s possible, you don’t really know until you set the ball in motion and see whether the people are out there who might support it.’’

In the meantime, McGuigan said the NRL will“continue to look at whatever [rival] proposals come up, if they think they’ve got legs’’.

Of the 17 parties from and abroad who expressed interest in buying the Knights when the NRL called for tenders in August, two remain under consideration.

Their initial bids were rejectedbecause they did not fulfill all the criteria. But the NRL has asked them to reapply if they can address their perceived shortcomings.

“There are still two groups who are interested in pursuing it,’’ McGuigan said.

After Tinkler’s tumultuous three-year tenure ended in June, 2014, the NRL has bankrolled the Knights.

The governing body is willing to continue doing so indefinitely but has always maintained that this is merely a stopgap measure.

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MISSED: Family, friends and workmates are helping in the search for missing Metford teenager Zac Barnes, who was last seen at Thornton on December 13. Picture: Facebook.
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MOTHER of missing Metford teenager Zac Barnes has penned an emotional open letter to her son pleading with him to make contact.

Karen Gudelj tells her 18-year-old son that his family and friends areshattered while his boss and workmates look forward to having him back on the tools.

Zac has not been seen since running off from friends at Thornton on November 13 wearing only boardshorts and a singlet.

“I know how much you love your family,’’ Ms Gudelj says in the letter.

“If you can’thome please please please just let us know somehow.

“Reach out to someone. There are lots of people you can trust.’’

A heartbroken Ms Gudelj told Fairfax Media on Thursday that Zac’s friends were handing out posters, which had been printed for free by a local company, in a bid to find their friend.

She said she feared her son was too scared to contact family or friends and reiterated her message to him that there was no problem or issue too great to overcome.

“I never realised until now how many people adore you. Witnessing your friends crushed as much as we are is overwhelming,’’ she said.

Ms Gudelj also wrote about of her family’s pain at not knowing what had happened to him despite repeatedpleas on social and mainstream media.

“Your little sisters ask about you everyday,’’ she said.

“Mick is a complete mess he misses you so much. Jaz is looking every day. Liam can’t be believe you’re gone.

“Al says come back to work, Marty checks in regularly and says ‘what can I do to help’, Julz your second mum is frantic and hasn’t stopped looking for you.’’

Ms Gudelj said Zac could be identified by a tattoo of a VB logo on his right calf, and asked anyone who may see him to contact police instead of approaching him.

Zacwas last seen wearing a faded blue singlet, dark blue board shorts and work boots.

A large air and land search at Thornton earlier this week failed to find any trace of Zac.

Anyone who has information is urged to contact Maitland police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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