Carlisle United eyeing progress under new ownership

Piatak family (courtesy Carlisle Utd)

League One side, Carlisle United, is under new ownership following a deal, for an undisclosed sum, by the US-based Piatak family, following English Football League (EFL) approval.

American property investment entity, Castle Sports Group, owned by the family, from Jacksonville, Florida, has taken over from previous incumbents, Andrew, John Nixon, Steven Pattison and Lord Clark of Windermere, alongside supporters’ trust, CUOSC.

The board took control of the Cumbrian club in 2008 when the largest shareholder, Fred Story, passed on the baton.

The previous regime said: “As we sign over our shares to new owners, we want to say a big thank you to all the fans, supporters and businesses who have backed and rallied behind the club and the board during the last 15 years.

“Like all football clubs it’s been a ride of many ups and downs both on-the-field and in the administration of the club. The support we been given in that time has been much appreciated.”

They said previous attempts at takeovers had been mounted, but “they always fell at the final hurdle due to lack of visible funds”.

They added: “Last season saw a return to Wembley, a play-off final win and promotion back to League One. And now we hand over to new owners, the Piatak family from Jacksonville, Florida.

“We are very pleased they will take up the reins of the club as they’ve shown ambition, drive and focus to take Carlisle United to the next level. Not only that, they’ve been involved with the new EFL acquisition process since May, which is a stringent set of requirements to ensure future ownership of clubs in the EFL are more protected from financial risk.

“We wish the Piatak family well and wish them good luck for the future. It’s been a pleasure working with them in the last six months and we are all confident the club is going into good hands.

Chief executive, Nigel Clibbens, paid tribute to the departing owners, saying: “They have all worked tirelessly for Carlisle United and remain very passionate and life-long United fans. Much of what they have done has been behind the scenes, without seeking plaudits. They have preferred to stay in the background and just get on with the job.

“Part of the responsibility of ownership is making sure a club is left in safe hands. As the club is about to move into a new chapter, they have done all they can to ensure that, too.”

News of a possible takeover broke in August this year, and following conclusion of the deal, Tom and Patty Piatak, said: “We’re so pleased that the deal has now been completed. We’re excited about the opportunities for Carlisle United and the community around it.

“We saw the potential as soon as we started this process, and we all want to help the club achieve that potential.”

They flew to the UK last week and took in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Charlton Athletic.

They added: “We’re very excited, it’s been a long process but we’ve had a great time over the past year travelling over to Carlisle.

“We’ve been able to get to know the city and the area, and we’ve really fallen in love with the countryside.

“We’re very happy we’ve been able to get this over the finish line.”

Jenna Piatak and Nick DeMasi said: “We’re super excited for the future now that this part of the process is completed.

“We’re looking forward to being able to finally come in and help shape the future of the club. We’ve really enjoyed meeting all the fans so far.

“The whole city of Carlisle has welcomed us with open arms and we’re excited to properly start our journey together.”

Manager, Paul Simpson, said: “It’s absolutely fantastic news for the football club. It feels like it’s been going on for ages. I think firstly it would be wrong not to give praise to the board of directors who brought me back to the club and who have been looking after this football club for donkey’s years.

“I dread to think how many years combined they’ve been here, but they’ve been fantastic for me. I know they’ve came in for a bit of criticism, but the truth is I don’t know where this football club would have been and if there would have been a football club without them. They’ve been loyal to this place and put so many hours into the place, they’ve done a magnificent job. I think the other credit they need is the fact they’ve realised it’s time to hand it over and pass it on to somebody else.”

He said: “It’s the Piatak family who have got the honour of taking it forward and I’m really optimistic for what the future of this football club can look like. I’m delighted with the enthusiasm they’ve shown and everybody can say there’s no connection to Carlisle because they aren’t supporters, but I can tell you they’ve got so much enthusiasm for how they want to take this club forward and how they want to try and develop it.”

The Brunton Park club is currently in the lower reaches of League One, and Simpson said: “They want to help me and the rest of the staff to put a group of players together, and now the challenge is who is prepared to go and roll their sleeves up and come along on the journey. This is the start of the new one, I talked about it when I first came back about getting on board, and it’s been brilliant so far and now we have an opportunity to go again.

“We have an opportunity to really go and hold our own at League One. The first challenge is that we’ve got to stay at this level. We’re now in a position where we’re looking at a different pool of players which will hopefully be able to take us forward.”

The Piatek’s are understood to have resolved United’s £2.6m debt situation with Purepay Retail Limited.

Carlisle was owned for a decade by the maverick ball-juggling property developer Michael Knighton, once unveiled in 1989 as a Manchester United purchaser.

Local housebuilder Fred Story owned the club, before passing it to the consortium of local businessmen.

They were subject to the now almost obligatory long running ownership saga, including an approach by Edinburgh Woollen Mills, before, themselves, collapsing into administration after the pandemic.

Carlisle clinched promotion from League Two to League One during this summer’s League Two play-off at Wembley, where they fought out a 1-1 draw with fellow rivals, Stockport County, before triumphing 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out.