The complex process of removing Nathan Tinkler as Newcastle Knights owner continued yesterday with another marathon round of crisis talks, but hopes are fading of a resolution this week.
A secret four-hour meeting was held at the Watt Street Commercial Centre, attended by Knights chairman Paul Harragon and chief executive Matt Gidley, NRL head of club services Tony Crawford and Knights members club directors Nick Dan, Allan McKeown, Trevor Crow, Peter Corcoran, plus three other unidentified men in suits.
Surprisingly, there was no sign of Tinkler’s right hand man, Hunter Sports Group CEO Troy Palmer.
The negotiations kicked off at 3.30pm and all involved were tight-lipped when they emerged at 7.30pm.
Looking decidedly unimpressed about the presence of a Newcastle Herald photographer, Crawford replied: ‘‘No mate, there isn’t’’ when asked if anyone would be available to answer questions.
For the past two months Crawford has overseen the protracted wrangle between HSG and the members club for control of the Knights.
HSG, Tinkler’s company which has run the Knights for the past three years, has been on borrowed time since defaulting on March 31 on a commitment to have in place a $10.52 million bank guarantee, a breach that entitled the members club to buy the franchise back for $1.
The NRL’s resolve to end the impasse hardened last Friday when about 20 Knights players and staff were not paid their monthly wages.
That prompted another meeting in Newcastle on Monday, at which an NRL spokesman said ‘‘we made some progress’’.
The Herald understands that at Monday’s meeting, HSG agreed in principle to relinquish the Knights – but no agreement was reached on the financial terms.
It is understood that before agreeing to any handover, HSG is seeking help to settle around $20 million in liabilities it has racked up in three years in charge of the Knights.
In particular, HSG is believed to be eager to be allowed to use some of the $10.52 million in a joint-signatory bank account for that purpose.
Informed sources told the Herald that Palmer’s non-attendance last night may have been because HSG had already given the NRL and members club a ‘‘take it or leave it’’ offer to consider.
If that was the case, those two parties would have needed to crunch the numbers before accepting or rejecting the proposal, which was possibly the main item on last night’s agenda.
Asked why he did not attend last night’s meeting, Palmer replied by text: ‘‘No comment . . . lol.’’
Whatever was discussed behind closed doors, it now appears that any resolution is expected next week, at the earliest.
There had been hopes earlier in the week that an announcement might be made today but that now appears unlikely.
Meanwhile, the Knights’ official newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, reported last night that Newcastle players have been receiving insulting texts from Tinkler’s phone.
The messages allegedly included ‘‘you’re soft’’, ‘‘our season is over’’ and ‘‘we’ve got no passion, no heart’’.
Palmer hit back, telling the Telegraph that the former billionaire had an ‘‘excellent relationship with players’’ and ‘‘they love him’’.