Newcastle United fans are fuming with Mike Ashley once again.
He’s been here before though and it’s not something that will even slightly bother him. Ashley is one of the shrewdest businessmen in the country with a reputation of getting what he wants, one way or the other.
The purchase of Newcastle United back in 2007 was greeted with excitement and jubilation by fans, fed up with Freddie Shepherd’s policy of buying big name mercenaries and poor managerial appointments after Sir Bobby. So when news broke of a billionaire willing to relieve Shepherd and Hall of their stakes, it was seen by most as the beginning of something special.
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The fans had every reason to be optimistic too, after seeing what happened at Chelsea a few seasons earlier when billionaire Russian, Roman Abramovich, bought the club and immediately spent £100m on new players. Taking Chelsea from serial also-rans to world super club, but Mike Ashley is no Abramovic, as we found out.
With Ashley in his eighth season at Newcastle United, his performance in the eyes of the bankers has been nothing but first class. The club is now one of the most self-sufficient clubs in the country and making hefty profits every year, minus a year spent in the Championship after being relegated at the end 2008/2009 season.
How his performance is judged by the fans is nothing short of a disgrace. The re-naming of the ground, selling the best players without bringing in replacements and refusing point blank to offer an explanation. Maybe because it’s so obvious that he doesn’t feel he really has to.
Newcastle United is a vehicle for Sports Direct and not the other way around. It’s about global branding and merchandise contracts and nothing will change that. Should any team offer the right price they can take any of our players.
It’s about profit and the truth is Ashley holds all the cards. The club is worth more to him than anyone is ever likely to offer, as Sports Direct benefits hugely from the club. There is only one way Ashley will walk away and that is if he finds a better vehicle. Step forward Glasgow Rangers.
Ashley has a major decision to make this week. Does he stick or does he twist? The Rangers board are in absolute turmoil at the moment and desperate for operating funds. Whilst Dave King and a rich fan consortium going by the name of ‘The 3 Bears’ has just increased their stakes. Adding to that, American tycoon, Robert Sarver who owns US basketball Club, Phoenix Suns, is also in the frame to make an outright bid of his own, or possibly even team up with the 3 Bears.
This spells the end for the current board unless Ashley decides that Rangers could be the better vehicle for Sports Direct. It would take major investment to get Newcastle into the Champions League on a regular basis but within a season or two, Rangers could be back in the elite competition, which is sure to be attractive to Ashley in the medium term.
All eyes are on Ashley now. Will he sell Newcastle and go for all out control at Ibrox, or will he stick with what he has and keep his powder dry? The tanks may well be on their way up the A1 as we speak because he can’t own both. The smart move would be to go for Rangers, and Mike Ashley is a very smart businessman. Here’s hoping…..