IF not quite the end of an era at Sunderland, it is surely the next best thing. Stewart Donald’s retention of a 19 per cent stake means the final links to the Madrox era have not quite been broken, but this week’s announcement that Kyril Louis-Dreyfus is now a majority shareholder with 51 per cent, with Juan Sartori also increasing his shareholding to 30 per cent, nevertheless marks a hugely significant moment in Sunderland’s history.

As the now departed Charlie Methven might have put it, after four years of faded dreams and broken promises, the p***-take party is finally over.

Clearly, there is a huge symbolic importance to the boardroom reorganisation. While Donald and Methven were no longer board members, their continued involvement in the club, no matter how supposedly minor and trivial, understandably infuriated supporters who saw them as the figureheads of a discredited former regime.

Methven’s tendency to court publicity, which reappeared explosively around the time of Lee Johnson’s departure and Sunderland’s messy courtship of Roy Keane, stuck in the craw, reminding fans that while their club might have moved on in a number of different ways, one crucial element remained stuck in the past.

In fairness to Donald, he has eschewed the limelight, wisely deciding not to make a big song and dance about his presence at Wembley for the play-off final, but the fact he owned 34 per cent of the club prior to this week’s developments was both a legitimate worry and a symbolic slap in the face.

The Northern Echo:

With Methven no longer involved at all, and Donald now just a silent minority shareholder with an inconsequential stake, a line can finally be drawn under a controversial and ultimately disastrous spell. Having promised to restore Sunderland to its former glories, Donald and Methven instead led the club to its worst-ever league finish. On more than one occasion.

So, there will be a symbolic importance to Louis-Dreyfus’ presence in the directors’ box on the opening day of next season when Sunderland host Coventry City at the Stadium of Light, with Donald and Methven nowhere to be seen. But there are also two hugely-important practical reasons why this week’s ownership restructure should be celebrated.

First, it removes the possibility of a significant chunk of the club falling into the hands of an individual or group even less fit or able to run the club than Donald and Methven.

Like any club, Sunderland’s fanbase tends to splinter into disparate factions, so the fact The Fans Together (TFT) managed to unite all supporters in a passionate rejection of their cryptocurrency experiment underlines just how damaging it might have been.

Perhaps the EFL would have developed a backbone and thrown out TFT’s proposal to buy out Donald and Methven if it had ever reached the stage of a formal application to the governing body. Thankfully, now, we do not have to find out. William Storey, the social media-savvy energy drink self-publicist, can also now focus his attentions on Formula One rather than football.

Louis-Dreyfus has explicitly stated there will be “no further sale of shares to a third-party buyer”, a pledge that removes the uncertainty that had been building since last month’s Wembley win at a stroke. Hopefully, a much-needed period of stability will now ensue.

The second major benefit of this week’s reorganisation is that it also clears up much of the ambiguity that had the potential to seriously damage Sunderland’s ability to invest in the transfer market this summer.

Under the previous ownership model, Louis-Dreyfus, as a controlling but still minority shareholder, was dependent upon Donald in particular continuing investing at a level commensurate to his shareholding. If Donald was either unwilling or unable to back Louis-Dreyfus and Kristjaan Speakman’s proposed moves in the transfer market, there was the very real possibility of them being strangled at birth.

The Northern Echo:

Now, with Louis-Dreyfus and Sartori owning an 81 per cent stake between them, and all available evidence suggesting they are closely aligned and effectively working in tandem, there should be no barriers to the squad investment Sunderland badly need if they are to be competitive in the Championship next season. While Lynden Gooch signed a new contract on Wednesday, the fixture list has been published without the Black Cats having added a single player to the squad that finished in fifth position in League One last term. Clearly, additions are required.

There are questions still to be answered about how things will unfold from here. The extent of Louis-Dreyfus’ personal wealth has never really been ascertained, and the fact he took so long to buy up Donald and Methven’s shares hardly smacked of someone for whom money is no object. As part of his statement on Wednesday morning, Louis-Dreyfus promised to deliver “long-term success and sustainability”. Clearly, that will require significant investment, and only time will tell whether that investment will be forthcoming.

Sartori’s role also remains somewhat opaque, with the South American having avoided the mud that stuck to Donald and Methven despite having been an integral part of the former regime. At various stages of his involvement with Sunderland, Sartori has let it be known that he intends to become more ‘hands-on’. So far, his words have not really resulted in any meaningful action.

After the events of the last four years, it is imperative that both Louis-Dreyfus and Sartori are as open and transparent as possible. At least now, though, Sunderland supporters know it is they and they alone who are running financial affairs and making all the key decisions.

Donald and Methven promised much, but delivered three seasons of failure. Louis-Dreyfus and Sartori have begun the process of turning things around, but with the Championship looking more competitive than ever, the hard work is only just beginning. After this week’s developments, at least they are not having to face the challenge with one hand tied behind their back.