The day Fawaz Al-Hasawi was told he had to sell Nottingham Forest: Part two

Former Nottingham Forest owner Fawaz Al-Hasawi at The City Ground.

Having worked with British Prime Ministers, and on one of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, walking into Fawaz Al-Hasawi’s house and telling him he had to sell Nottingham Forest wasn’t as daunting for Greg Nugent as it would have been for you or I.

The white-walled townhouse was beautifully and tastefully decorated, and the former ‘Trent Ender’ was made tea by the then-Forest owner and shown into the TV room, where Al-Hasawi and around eight advisors were seated. 

Before he could give advice, “Mr Olympic” – as Nugent had been named by Fawaz’s entourage – had to hear where Fawaz was at this point – what exactly he needed advice on.

The ever-polite Kuwaiti talked for quite a while, but seemed a beaten man. 

He admitted some of the mistakes he’d made, he knew that fans were unhappy, and realised he’d wasted a lot of money going backwards.

The exact figures are difficult to ascertain, but it would certainly be north of £100 million.

Al-Hasawi realised that something had to change, and had come up with a plan where he could stay close to the club that he genuinely had a lot of affection for.

That plan was for Al-Hasawi to relinquish financial control, to attract an investor, but for him to stay in charge.

He wanted to sell 80% of his stake, but remain as chairman and take a salary. 

For him, it seemed perfect. 

But, how would you possibly attract a buyer who would agree to Fawaz remaining as chairman – it would put off any potential new owner.

Greg Nugent asked the advisors what they thought, hoping that one of them would say that it wouldn’t work, and his time at The City Ground was at an end. 

They didn’t.

Greg was then asked what he thought. And he had to deliver a pretty stark message to the amiable Al-Hasawi, in front of his advisors, in his own house.

“With respect, you’re just not very good at running a football club,” the Kuwaiti was told.

Nugent went on to say that Al-Hasawi’s plan to retain some control wouldn’t work, and that the fans wanted change.

It had passed a tipping point with the majority of supporters, and there was no way back. His legacy would have to be that he sold the club on to good people.

The blunt message continued: the best thing for the football club would be if there was a clean break, he was told. And that retaining a stake wouldn’t be a clean break, that he’d have to sell it all. 

The room went silent. 

Al-Hasawi then thanked Nugent for his honest words, and discussed what had been said for around ten minutes.

The Kuwaiti was putting forward counter-arguments, and trying to argue that he could retain an interest in the club, while also helping it going forward.

There were a few more discussions around the table, advisors chipping in, Al-Hasawi talking, Nugent deliberating. And then suddenly, Fawaz said “Ok, sell the lot…”

And that was it, done. Al-Hasawi had agreed to sell Nottingham Forest. All of it.

Nugent drafted a statement for Fawaz over WhatsApp as he returned to his North London house in a taxi – that statement was due to go live on the Forest website at 10am the following morning. 

But by 10.02, there was nothing. So Nugent called Al-Hasawi to make certain it was still going to happen.

Had the owner had a change of heart having slept on it?

By 11am, the statement appeared – “Firstly, I have no intention of remaining as Chairman of the club once a deal has been concluded. I believe it is right and in the best interests of Nottingham Forest for there to be a completely fresh start.

“Secondly, if the right owner comes forward and wants to purchase the whole club then I would not hesitate to sell 100% of my stake. I am only committed to securing the best-possible future for Nottingham Forest.”

By May, a deal had been completed. And Fawaz Al-Hasawi’s time at Forest was at an end. 

Photo: Dan Westwell

9 thoughts on “The day Fawaz Al-Hasawi was told he had to sell Nottingham Forest: Part two

  1. Enjoying these articles Robin.
    Are you able to share why the sale to the Americans fell through?

  2. Really great read again Robin!

    I don’t have any ill will or hatred towards Fawaz, whose heart (and wallet) was in the right place. But he could be the poster boy for how good intentions matter not a jot if you haven’t got a proper strategy in place. Every decision he took was meddling and based on short-termism.

    If the wonderful Nigel Doughty’s biggest fault was he made some poor managerial hirings, Fawaz’s biggest fault was that he sometimes had the right man in place then based on what seemed like whims he’d fire them. A lot is (rightly) made of the sacking of O’Driscoll, but when he sacked Billy we were 7th and 2 points outside the play-offs. When he sacked Pearce we were in the top half. He sacked Dougie when we were mid-table and replaced him with someone who’d nearly cause us to be relegated.

    That’s four times he’d have definitely been better leaving someone in place, and apart from for Dougie, there wasn’t any groundswell of opinion from the terraces that the chop was needed. If he’d have just let them get on with it, and hired and empowered a good CEO, then he’d probably still be Chairman now, and a decent chance it would be in the Prem.

    Such a waste of years, for him and us.

    1. in all fairness I think we could all see it wasn’t going to work out with Pearce, despite how much we wanted it to. His track record was poor, and we were in freefall. Billy’s off the field antics started to affect the team on the pitch. In both cases it was probably the right decision to switch before we gor desperate. SOD’s sacking was questionable, and as much as I hated Dougie’s dull style of football he was doing ok with what he had.

  3. I thought Fawaz was a bit like the rich kid in the playground- bought everyone sweets but still wasn’t liked- he wanted too much control & gave in too easily to whoever shouted loudest as to what should be d
    one next. I still believe his heart was with Forest but had as much idea about running a football club as I have !!

  4. He had Adrian Bevington as an advisor, if he’d of made him CEO then I think we could of gone places. £100 million wasted!! I guess a large chunk of that was for Henri Lansbury’s new contract!! I do agree that his heart was in the right place but he couldn’t run a bath let alone a football club!!

  5. Hey Robin, thanks again for sharing. What a great read. In terms of Fawaz and his advisors there was one particular guy who used to change the scoreboards back in Kuwait who used to have Fawaz’s ear at all times. I can’t remember if it was you or Colin Fray who did an interview with the old Forest chairman who was in charge back in the Clough era. He said that he had had many discussions with Fawaz about Forest. He said (like many people have commented on too) that Fawaz had all the right intentions and his heart was in the right place however he had no place in running a football club. God……..£100M flushed down the toilet and all that remains of his era is the two video screens. What a bizarre time to be a Forest fan!!!!

  6. Fawaz still hung on and sued Forest for money in the courts. Why did that happen?! Still mystery about Forest’s transfer dealings even now. Who makes the final decision on ins and outs?

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