It’s understood Kelley, the CEO of Melbourne-based ASX50 company Vicinity Centres and owner of the Adelaide 36ers, has been sounded out by key Crows figures about joining the board when Chapman retires at year’s end – with some agitating for a quicker transition if the club’s season continues to flounder.
The club has generally maintained it expects Chapman’s successor to come from within its ranks, but one insider told InDaily there was a growing recognition that “perhaps regrettably there might have to be a board transition with a chairmanship that’s not from the existing board”.
Significantly, Kelley did not rule out his interest when approached by InDaily, saying: “If they wanted me on the board, I’d be happy to consider it.”
“The Crows have been a huge part of my life and my family’s lives for many years,” he said.
It’s understood Kelley and Chapman met to discuss the possibility of a board role late last year. However, key members of the current administration have refused to countenance such an appointment.
While Kelley, formerly CEO of Singapore-listed property heavyweight City Developments Limited, would bring national and international heft to the role, his 36ers have endured a similarly turbulent offseason to the Crows, with coach Joey Wright parting ways with the club and then-co-captain Kevin White unleashing an extraordinary social media tirade.
But Kelley received significant endorsement today, with Bill Sanders – Adelaide’s inaugural CEO and Chapman’s predecessor as Chairman – confirming he had discussed a board move with him.
“I met with him and we discussed a lot of matters, and in those discussions, he raised the issue of the Crows board,” he told InDaily.
“From what I know and what we discussed, I would have thought he’d be well qualified to advance his aspirations to join the board of the club.”
Kelley’s links to the club and its old guard were also bolstered through his appointment of former Crows boss Steven Trigg as 36ers advisory board chair.
Chapman did not comment today about the prospect of Kelley joining the board, but reiterated: “We have to select a successor [and] there are people on the board that have the skill set required to do that.”
However, he added, “we wouldn’t rule anyone out externally”.
“But we’re two rounds into the season,” he said.
“We’ve got a plan – we’ll go through that plan and we’ll find the right person.”
He said several names had been canvassed with him, but “I’m not going to speculate about anybody’s ability to do that role internally… they’ve all got the skill to do it”.
Despite media suggestions the coronavirus pandemic could prompt Chapman to extend his tenure, he insists: “I’ll be stepping aside at the end of the year.”
He has remained in the role beyond his original timetable, with the 2017 death of tourism supremo Bob Foord robbing Adelaide of its presumptive successor.
The club parted ways with coach Don Pyke in the off-season, and senior football department figures Brett Burton and Scott Camporeale after an independent review.
Chapman said he was “not interested in the past – I know we got caught up in it in recent days – but we’ve got a plan, and I’m 100 per cent committed to it”.
“We’re now eight months into that plan, and we’re backing that plan in,” he said.
“We’ve got the right people doing the right things [and] at the end of the year I’m adamant I’ll be walking away with the club in good hands – we’ll find the right person the lead it as chairman.”
Current board member Jim McDowell, who did not respond to inquiries today, has been mooted by some insiders as a likely internal appointment, although some have questioned whether the role would conflict with his job heading Steven Marshall’s Department of Premier and Cabinet – in which capacity he also oversees SA’s coronavirus transition.
Crows deputy chair Jim Hazel told InDaily balancing those roles could be “very tough”, although he noted there were “different ways” to handle the chairman’s role.
“You can go to a chairman/CEO type model, where you don’t have to do so much media… there’s another model where it’s more a background type role,” he said.
“There are a lot of different ways to do it, and Jim could do it in that way – but he’s got a pretty important day job right now for SA.”
Hazel said “I think we know our way around the sporting landscape pretty well in SA, but Grant [Kelley’s] not someone I know well”.
That’s despite the Crows previously holding discussions about buying a stake in the 36ers as recently as 2018.
“He’s welcome to come and talk to us,” Hazel said, noting the club had “a number of internal candidates” but would be “considering external candidates as well”.
After almost a decade on the board, Hazel ruled himself out of the top role, while it’s understood former federal minister Kate Ellis will not be a candidate either.
Member-elected board director Kym Ryder told InDaily “Chappy’s replacement is going to have a big job to do”.
“He puts in an incredible amount of work… people don’t understand how much work he’s put in,” he said.
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