Full interview with new Dundee United owner Mark Ogren

New Dundee united owner Mark Ogren was unveiled at Tannadice today and immediately set out the reasons behind his purchase of the club and how he intends to deliver success.

Minnesota-based Ogren recently completed the purchase of the majority shareholding in Dundee United, purchasing 85% of the club’s shares from ex-chairman Mike Martin and club director Jimmy Fyffe. The new chairman was in the stands for last Saturday’s 1-0 win over Dunfermline and was naturally happy to see the team win.

“It’s fun,” he said.

“This is the first time here since I’ve bought the club and we got here on Saturday, just about an hour before the game time, so it was kind of a whirlwind, but it was a nice win and we had a great day.”

So far Ogren has been busy meeting everyone at the club. He also attended a meeting with the supporter groups on Monday evening and he revealed that initial impressions this visit have further underlined why he made the right choice in buying the club.

“It is everything and more than we thought,” he said of the club.

“We’ve had a great visit and we had a board of directors meeting yesterday, had an all staff meeting, had a club meeting with all the players, all the coaches.

“Last night we met with the fan groups, so it’s been very, very busy, but been great.”

One of the most asked questions Ogren has had to field is ‘why Dundee United and why Scottish football?’. Ogren has no links to the club or the area, however he says that once the decision to invest in football this side of the Atlantic was made it was Dundee United that most caught his eye.

“A lot of people have said that,” he said.

“Well it didn’t just start out necessarily being Scottish football, it was more European football as a whole and looking at different opportunities.

“That was our focus to begin with, but Dundee United caught our eye, we spent a lot of time doing due diligence, looking at all the opportunities.

“The rich history is really what appealed to us here.

“The past success we looked at as an opportunity since they’ve fallen back a little bit we could come in and make some changes and get the team back where it belongs in the Premiership.”

Indeed, the new changes have started at pace with a new managing director in Mal Brannagin and a new sporting director in Tony Ashgar appointed to take care of the day-to-day running of the club as Ogren continues to live in the United States.

“I am big on putting the right people in the right places and letting them do their job,” he said.

“That group knows their jobs better than certainly I do.

“I won’t be spending a lot of time over here, I’ll try to get over as much as I can, probably every couple of months, but we will be very plugged-in to what’s going on and we expect success.

“With the people that we have in place we absolutely believe we will get there.”

The immediate target is of course promotion back to the Scottish Premiership and while the new chairman has revealed that he will not be happy if that is not achieved this year, he has also said that another season in Championship will not risk the club’s future.

“Absolutely and hopefully near-term,” he said on the ambition to achieve promotion.

“We are absolutely all-in to try and get there this year, if it doesn’t happen it is not going to be the end all, but we will not be satisfied if we don’t get to the Premiership near-term.”

The club’s history was a big attraction for Ogren in buying Dundee United, however the fanbase of the club and the potential to grow it also attracted him.

“That’s what appealed to us,” he said.

“The facilities, the fanbase – the fanbase is very excitable and that’s great.

“I’ve said a couple of times, even the negativity, I’ll take negativity versus no interest by the fans.

“I like that fan engagement.”

The subject of both Dundee clubs being under American ownership has stoked speculation from some media outlets of a possible merger and Ogren was keen to address the speculation.

“There is and to be honest with you I don’t know much about the other club,” he said.

“I’ve certainly read about them, but we are going to focus on what we have here.

“I have a lot of questions of ‘is there going to be a possible merger?’.

“I’ve never met them over there, we do not have any intention whatsoever.

“We bought this team to be Dundee United and remain Dundee United and that’s what our focus is.

“People say: ‘can they exist, can they remain viable clubs?’

“I can’t speak for them because I don’t know that much about them, but we can, we know we can.

“We’ve been there before, and we know what it takes.

“We have done our due diligence and we have a roadmap to success here.”

Dundee have plans to leave Dens Park for a new stadium near Camperdown Park in the city. Along with speculation of mergers, there has also been speculation regarding a possible groundshare in the future. Ogren was also quick to dismiss that prospect.

“I don’t think that makes sense,” he said.

“Right now, one of the main assets that we bought when we bought Dundee United was Tannadice.

“Tannadice is great, we did a tour yesterday and saw a little more of Tannadice than we saw the first time we were here and looked for some opportunities to make some improvements here to help us in the long-term, but no, this is a great place and we will remain here.”

The new owner revealed that fans could expect to see some improvements made to the stadium in future in order to attract fans, but a winning team on the pitch is of course the number one priority.

“Redevelop might be a strong word, we will be more probably surgical in some of the things that we are going to do to improve the fan experience here, but we need more fans here on a regular basis.

“In order to do that we have to get promoted because I think that there are certain fans out there that say ‘hey, prove to me that you are going to put a winner on the pitch and we’ll come out and support you’.

“So, that’s what we are going to do.”

Ogren has met with everyone at the club, but perhaps none more important than Robbie Neilson who the new owner has revealed he has full confidence in to deliver for United.

“Robbie is a great guy and the more I get to know him the more I like him,” he said.

“He is proven, first of all coming in the team was not doing very good and during his time period he has made some improvements to the squad.

“The record has been much, much better and he is proven.

“He has gotten a team promoted up into the Premiership, so he knows what it is going to take and with some of the other people that we have brought in, Mal Brannigan that will run the business side and Tony Asghar our new sporting director, will work closely with Robbie to try to identify the players we need in order to make those changes to our squad in order to get promoted.

“That’s a really good team.”

With the January window open and Robbie Neilson on record as saying he is looking to recruit five or six players, the chairman revealed he is willing to open the chequebook for new signings.

“There’s not a budget per se but we are willing to spend the money that’s necessary,” he said.

“So, we are going to identify certain targets and we are going to take a look at them on a one-off basis and do what’s necessary and spend the necessary money.

“We realise that we need to spend money in order to get promoted, but our overall plan does not work if we remain in the championship.

“So, we are going to make the necessary changes and we will spend the money in order to get promoted.”

Ogren met with the numerous fan groups on Monday evening and feels that the relationship has gotten off to a positive start, but he knows that the club must deliver to keep fans happy.

“We met with them last night actually and we had a good meeting,” he said.

“They have been very vocal on their displeasure with a lot of things and it’s not all bad, but we had a nice dialogue last night.

“It was very positive, and we told them what our general plan is, and I think it was well received, but obviously they’re going to be leery.

“They are going to want to see some results, talk is cheap.”

Running a business, and especially a football club, is fraught with challenges from the short-term to the long-term. For Ogren these challenges excite him.

“We have not seen anything that discourages us at all,” he said.

“In fact, it has been a very positive visit that we’ve had here.

“The tour of Tannadice, obviously we saw a lot of good opportunities there, some really good things too.

“We’ve met with staff, we’ve met with the club.

“We’ve met with the coaches yesterday, that was very positive.

“We had a board of directors meeting yesterday that was very positive.

“Obviously talking to the fan groups, so people have been great.

“We are super excited.”

On his plans for the club, the initial aim is obvious in returning to the Scottish Premiership, however the new owner is ambitious and is looking further ahead than simply getting promoted this season.

“It’s not only getting promoted, it is staying promoted,” he said.

“We need sustainability and medium to long-term we want to be a top six Premiership club and we want to play in Europe.”

Ogren also revealed that he has invested in clearing some of the club’s debt as part of his recent investment in the club. For Ogren, who will be joined by his son Scott on the board, this investment was all part of the plan.

“We are going to be all-in on this,” he said.

“We bought shares, we incurred some debt that we are retiring.

“So, we spent a lot of time on due diligence, so we know what we are getting into.

“We haven’t had any surprises, we’ve got our plan to success and we are going to get there.”

The Ogrens have been involved in sports in the United States and while he sees some differences he also sees similarities. However, the different strategies required to operate in football this side of Atlantic are something that excites him compared with American sports.

“I haven’t been a hands-on owner in any of those clubs either,” he said.

“I think a few of the differences over there are the marketing side of it.

“The business itself is very similar although one of the things that appealed to us about European football is that there is a lot more strategy involved.

“You buy players, you sell players. You transfer players, you can get promoted, you can get relegated.

“It is very important what position you end up with within your league.

“We don’t have that in American sports, so we love that difference.”

With the Ogren era finally under way at Dundee United, the new chairman ended by underlining how he intends to deliver success to the club and make the club profitable. Something many say is not possible in Scottish football.

“It starts by investment,” he said.

“It starts by putting the right people in the right places, people that know what they are doing, that have had success in the past.

“So, that’s what we’ve started with that investment and then invest in the team itself, the players, in order to make sure you’ve got the right players that can not only get us promoted and to play in the Premiership.

“We need to start there but we absolutely believe, based on our plan and if we stick to our plan, that we can not only get promoted, we can stay promoted and we can be a profitable club.”

Meanhwhile, it has been revealed that Mark Ogren will donate £5,000 to the fundraising efforts for a statue of legendary manager Jim McLean at Tannadice.

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