A FULLY-FLEDGED takeover with the capability to bring about meaningful change or a shuffling of the share certificates that will inevitably lead to a continuation of the status quo? As more and more details begin to emerge about the boardroom discussions that are coming to a head at Sunderland, so it gets harder and harder to give a definitive verdict about what it all will mean.

Assuming the takeover process progresses as planned, Juan Sartori and Kyril Louis-Dreyfus should be confirmed as Sunderland’s new majority owners within the next two or three weeks. Stewart Donald will see his shareholding reduce from around 80 per cent to closer to 15, but will still retain a significant stake in the club. Charlie Methven’s current holding of around five per cent will remain unchanged.

The balance of power within the boardroom will be altered, but will the shifting dynamics do anything to change Sunderland’s direction of travel in League One? Much will depend on Sartori’s plans, and that is where getting a handle on what happens next becomes difficult. The Uruguayan has been involved with the Black Cats for more than two years now, but it remains hard to know why he chose Sunderland and even harder to assess how his involvement will change if he assumes majority control.

One thing that is not in doubt is the extent of his personal wealth. He is the founder and president of Union Group, a privately-owned conglomerate of Uruguayan businesses that initially began as a blueberry farming enterprise, but which has subsequently grown to encompass interests in agriculture, forestry, energy, infrastructure, minerals, oil and gas, and real estate.

He is also involved in Uruguayan politics, having been elected as a senator in February. A tilt at the Uruguayan presidency did not succeed, but South American political observers have speculated that he is positioning himself for a future run to be president.

So where does Sunderland fit into his thinking? Does he view the club as an attractive investment opportunity, a chance to buy a distressed asset languishing in League One before turning it into a sporting powerhouse in the Premier League? Or does he regard it as more of a relatively inexpensive plaything, a hobby that acts as a nod to the family of his wife, Ekaterina Rybolovleva, who previously owned the Ligue 1 club, Monaco?

Sartori’s passion as a fan was evident in the ‘Sunderland Til I Die’ documentary, when he was filmed watching on from the directors’ box at both the Stadium of Light and Wembley, but if that was the extent of his interest, why would he feel the need to increase his current stake?

A move to assume majority control suggests he has a much more strategic interest, but previous flurries of activity have waned as his political career in South America has gathered pace. If he buys out Donald in the next few weeks, will he be a much more hands-on presence on Wearside? Or will he continue to oversee things from afar, trusting figures like current chief executive Jim Rodwell to handle day-to-day affairs?

The tie-up with Louis-Dreyfus is interesting as it brings a new actor to the table with extremely deep pockets but equally uncertain intentions. The 22-year-old is the son of the late Robert Louis-Reyfus, a Zurich-based businessman who is a former owner of Marseille, and is reported to boast a £2bn trust fund overseen by his mother, Margarita.

As well as owning Marseille, the Louis-Dreyfus family also once had a minority share in Belgian side Standard Liege, so football ownership is not a new venture.

Again, though, the choice of Sunderland is interesting given that Sartori’s new partner could presumably have chosen to invest in a range of clubs scattered across the globe. Does Louis-Dreyfus want a long-term investment opportunity he can nurture and sustain as it gradually climbs its way back through the leagues? Or is he simply a rich kid with a billion-dollar fortune burning a hole in his pocket and a business associate filling his ear with stories of an enjoyable day out at Wembley?

Time will tell, but while Sunderland supporters do not have many positive things to say about Donald at the moment, perhaps the current owner’s insistence that he will only sell to people who want to take the club forward will prove significant.

Donald has worked with Sartori, so presumably he has a much better handle on the proposed new owner’s plans. He is keen to remain involved, so must believe there is the chance of a brighter future. Sunderland’s long-suffering fans will be hoping a change in the boardroom is a harbinger of genuinely transformational reform.