New owners at Charlton, fans hope for stability

Charlton Athletic - The Valley

Roland Duchatelet, the owner of top Belgian Pro League side Standard Liège, has agreed a deal to take over Championship side Charlton Athletic.

Charlton Athletic's owners Tony Jimenez and Michael Slater have agreed a deal to sell the South London club. Charlton, who are currently 19th in the Championship, are understood to have been sold for a fee of around £14m.

The man who will be replacing them at the helm of The Valley is Roland Duchatelet, the current owner of table-topping Belgian club Standard Liège.

Duchatelet, 67, is a former Belgian senator who made his millions in the electronics industry as the owner of Belgian semiconductor manufacturer Melexis.

The Addicks will be Duchatelet's third involvement in the beautiful game. As well as being the owner of Standard Liège, he is the chairman of Belgian second division side Sint-Truidense, who were relegated from the first division last season.

Duchatelet has been somewhat of a controversial figure during his tenure as owner of Standard Liège, a position he assumed following his takeover in June 2011. His later actions prompted demonstrations, riots and pitch invasions from supporters, for his policy of selling the club's top assets in order to ensure that the club remained financially stable.

It's a policy which could prove unpopular at Charlton, given the interest from Premier League sides surrounding both Chris Solly and Dale Stephens.

Last summer Duchatelet took the controversial step to appoint former Israel U21 boss Guy Luzon as the club's manager, despite open ridicule of Luzon back home in Israel.

Despite that ridicule, Luzon has Duchatelet's side sitting top of the Belgian Pro League table, four points clear of nearest challengers RSC Anderlecht. Standard Liège have lost just one of twenty-one games this term.

The situation at The Valley became critical when local businessman Kevin Cash withdrew his financial support for majority shareholder Tony Jimenez, and co-owner Michael Slater.

With the contracts of several key players - such as captain Johnnie Jackson, Welsh international Rhoys Wiggins and midfielder Dale Stephens all nearing expiration, the situation had become dire. Manager Chris Powell is also nearing the end of his current deal.

Amid off-field instability, the club have struggled this season. Charlton are currently four points clear of the drop zone, but Duchatelet's first target must be to provide fans of the club with the stability they so desperately crave.

Charlton boss Chris Powell to a ninth placed finish last season, finishing just three points off of the play-off zone. But in recent weeks the Charlton fan favourite had explain that he would be limited to loan signings in the January window, as he looked to equip his side for Championship survival.

Whether Duchatelet's arrival will affect that situation remains to be seen, but the Belgian millionaire backed Standard boss Luzon with an expenditure of £2.5m in the summer transfer window ahead of the 2013/14 season.

Duchatelet sanctioned the £1.5m deal that saw goalkeeper Yohann Thuram arrive from French Ligue 2 side Troyes, as well as the £900k deal for Anzhi midfielder Carcela-Gonzalez. Former Premier League men Ronnie Stam and Tal Ben-Haim also joined Luzon this summer. The club did, however, sell Icelandic international midfielder Birkir Bjarnason to Serie B side Pescara.

With the financial constraints surrounding the club for much of 2013, it is hoped that Duchatelet's arrival will signal a new dawn and enable manager Chris Powell to fully focus his squad during the second half of the Championship season.

image: © Markus Unger

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