An open letter to Sir John Hall, Freddy Shepherd and anyone else with a bit of wealth and influence who cares about the future of Newcastle United.

A strange thing happened in May 2007. I was sat at my desk. I was at work. It was a pretty ordinary late Spring type of day. Then all of a sudden I got this text message off a fellow Newcastle fan, it read: “Some billionnaire’s buying the Toon, this could be a massive moment.”

I hurriedly clicked on various news websites, fan forums and blogs and was confronted by a retail magnate from Berkshire called Mike Ashley, worth about £3.5 billion, who had made an offer to buy Newcastle Utd. On first view this looked like just what the club needed. It feels like five minutes ago, but it’s actually been eight years now.

What followed were a few weeks of uncertainty about the takeover. Sir John Hall had agreed to sell his shares and had done a round of TV interviews declaring Mike Ashley a self- made man and absolutely the right person to take the us forward. Freddy Shepherd was allegedly taken by surprise that Hall had decided to sell up. He was eventually put into a position where he also decided to cede control of his stake to Ashley. Newcastle United had been sold for £135m.

Since Ashley has got his claws into Nufc it has been run in a truly terrible way. Financial stability yes, but it’s been consistently punching well below its weight for the best part of a decade – one season aside when they finished fifth, but even then they failed to build on it.

There has been a shocking lack of investment in players, despite enormous TV deals with the broadcasters, rubbish managers and sponsors, the ignominy of relegation,and generally a hopeless lack of anything resembling basic competence at the top.

We are on the back of five derby defeats against Sunderland, something that was once unheard of. Five defeats and counting in the Premier League and a caretaker manager in John Carver who looks totally out of his depth. At the same time we are told the club has made an £18m profit and has £34m in its coffers, just sitting there going unspent on football players, despite the fact it’s a football club.

For many fans, enough is enough. Boycotts are back on the agenda, season tickets are being packed in as the club approaches one of the most important and uncertain summers in its recent history. It truly is a horrendous mess.

This purpose of this missive is not to naively suggest that you both, Sir John and Mr Shepherd, attempt to buy the club back. That is probably not realistic or desired.

What you could do, and I ask you to consider this seriously, is to join with the fans now and use your positions of influence to scour this planet and find the investors who can make a success of Newcastle Utd. Could you go out there and promote our club and find someone out there who is willing to come in and make a bid.

Someone who wants to invest and who wants to do things properly, with credibility and a blend of footballing and business acumen. Or am I being unrealistic? I appreciate that you are both now either retired or semi-retired.

I’d certainly like to see you both speak out about what is happening at our great club. Why did you sell to Mike  Ashley and why did you feel he was a good option. At this moment in time, it looks to have been a catastrophic moment in the history of Newcastle Utd.

I also call on anyone else out with wealth and influence to consider helping the club to find a buyer who can oust Mr Ashley and put Newcastle back where it really should be, before it’s too late.

You can follow the author on Twitter @DavePunton



  • Peter Wilkinson Nufc

    Cvhe was worth £1.2bill not £3.5bill when he bought us FFS RESEARCH THE FACTS!!!

  • Peter Wilkinson Nufc

    ALSO ASKING HALL OR SHEPHERD TO SPEAK OUT AFTER SIR JOHN HALL DID AN INTERVIEW IN THE LAST SUNDAY SUN MAKE U LOOK A BIT DAFT!!!

  • Chris Moore

    I wouldn’t want that pair of charlatans anywhere near a position of influence at NUFC.

  • SGM

    Scraping the barrel a bit. Ant and Dec might be a better option.

  • Morpeth mag

    I’m not completely sure, but I think it was £900 million,,,

  • LeazesEnder

    Sensible policies for a sensible electorate?… No they are a couple of Crooks!

    They do owe the fans …. they had no right to sell our heritage…

    …. just give us some dosh to help the cause!….Shepherd!

  • Roppa

    Irrespective of the details of the article, the sentiments are good, and should be applauded. SJH & FS will have numerous wealthy contacts in the business world, and it was their misjudgement (particularly SJH) that allowed the current odious owner to buy the Club.

    Let’s not criticise the author of the piece, but let’s unite as true supporters to use whatever means necessary to find a caring owner.

  • stepaylor

    with the new TV revenue the club is worth maybe 350 million to Ashley. It would take everything both of those guys own and a very large bank loan to be able to do it. Football clubs have gone from a millionaires toy to a billionaires.   Sir John and Freddy aren’t in that league. If they were i think they would be interested but unfortunately, no way. As for influence elsewhere it is an unknown

  • Andgeo

    An open letter to mike ashley:
    Dear fatty
    Install a proper manager and back him with lots of money or get out of our club and never come back.
    Regards
    Toon army

  • Andgeo

    Either ant or dec is a better option at centre half than mike Williamson. I’d definitely give them a go ahead of ameobi and gouffran

  • Andgeo

    Who cares??? It doesn’t matter how much money the fat oaf has, we won’t see a penny of it. We can’t even get him to spend the clubs own income on players or pay for his advertising, he’s pocketing more than our outlay on players!!!

  • mwmurdoch

    Its the one question I have always wanted to ask SJH ,what did Ashley say was his ambition for the club when he sold out ,for SJH to come out and say Mike Ashley is the man to take the club forward ,we have gone back season on season under Ashley and cant see where we are going ,well I can and its not very nice down there.
    I have never felt as low following nufc ,will not be re newing next season

  • Andrew Hargreaves

    Why would you ask the people who determined Ashley was an acceptable choice to go find another choice?

  • Jail for Ashley

    I heard a recent interview with Shepherd that sickened me to the stomach, he praised ‘Mike’ for the financial stability he’d brought and the good job he’d done. I thought to myself, what’s in it for you you fat fcuker.

  • Jail for Ashley

    Leazes,
    They owe us big time, they should be right behind any protest, but all we hear is the financial shite, very guilty conscious.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    To be accurate like, Fatty wasn’t worth 3.5 Billion back in 2007. When he floated SD he was ‘only’ worth 975 million initially. Aye, only! The Club cost him a quarter of his wealth at the time which no doubt put in play his shear financial panic of the relegation, not selling etc.

    Lets be honest here, Ashley may well have told Hall etc what his supposed intentions were for the Club, in addition to his SD advertising wishes. But he’s a consistent and proven liar and most likely only part of that was true. Certainly, SD have done well ever since out of it.

    Financial stability can’t be dismissed, but under investment certainly can be criticised. His mistakes cost him, but he’s punished the Club as a result of it. He’s ran this in a way to ensure it has not cost him personally another single penny after the relegation.

    That is all he remains interested in. Benefit at no cost.

  • DownUnderMag

    Shepherd and Hall were not the huge benefactors some make them out to be.  They did very well themselves (and their extended families) out of this club, rarely put their hands in their OWN pockets and wrote off massive debts against the club.  The debts though were manageable, they were within the running of the club and we were not in any danger of going to the same fate as Leeds had Ashley not taken over.  Neither side have told the fans the truth and they both took money out of the club.  The main difference was that before Ashley we at least TRIED to WIN something rather than being solely focused on finances and recuperation of investment.

    I think Ashley came in with a lot of expectations, but was soured over the Keegangate saga, and once we were relegated and he discovered that he could still make money and still get full gates to home games that was the end of trying…   
    I think this summer is a massive one for Ashley and NUFC as a whole.  The club needs massive investment, a definite direction and an altogether different outlook on revamping the squad, coaching and running of the club.  Without these things then it is difficult to see exactly where fan pride, passion and willingness to back the club will come from other than a sense of duty, habit or just a traditional pint with mates once a week.   Should Ashley fail to deliver on players and a good manager then it is also difficult to see some of our stars such as Janmaat and Sissoko staying and with them leaving so would our chances of staying up next season!

  • FC Newcastle

    I challenge hall and shepherd to GIVE us the money to start our own club – FC Newcastle for ever

  • Jake Burns

    Whats wrong with Ant and Dec?

  • IntravenusMP

    Why did they sell? 

    Because having spent a lot of money on players that were not good enough, they’d also paid huge salaries. The way transfers are (were in NUFC’s case) are paid, you can pay on the ‘never never’ and increasingly, the ‘never never’ was becoming can’t pay. The bank was increasingly nervous about the finances and further facilities were not going to be offered. On top of this, the dividend policy at NUFC was to pay high divis to shareholders which made up for the low share price, this is not a strange practice for a normal PLC with many shareholders but the ownership was concentrated in the hands of a few. 

    Basically NUFC was a busted flush. THe question is really to Mike Ashley – Why did you pay so much for the shares? How did Hall give pull off the illusion that there were other buyers so the deal had to happen quickly, especially as attempts to woo interest from Belgravia and Polygon (from those we know of) had fallen away.  The argument being that Ashley could have bought NUFC for as little as £100m and still turn it around.

  • pissed off mag

    IntravenusMP  why did he pick us and not destroy any other club, he could swindle

  • Sickandtiredstill

    IntravenusMP Stop peddling that myth! 

    The only person to have suggested administration ‘may’ have been possible was Ashley himself. Like all stories, people began to re-write that and accept it as true. 

    Not a single person anywhere can factually prove the Club would have gone, or were in danger of going, into Administration under Shepherd/Hall. If you think you can then feel free to provide FACTUAL evidence, not just regurgitated opinion.

    Indeed, if that threat ever existed there was a far greater possibility of it due to Ashley getting the Club relegated for the first time in it’s PL history and the subsequent loss of tv revenue. The result was a massive increase in the operating overdraft.

    What did Ashley do? He didn’t dig deep (or deeper) into his pocket as folklore suggests – he re-mortgaged St James’ that year! http://www.theguardian.com/football/2010/jun/02/newcastle-debt-banks

    Those charges (Deeds of Assignment) are still in place to this day.

  • Peter Moustachley

    Richard Branson. He’s our only hope

  • IntravenusMP

    pissed off mag IntravenusMP Because he’d made a lot of money from MetroCentre and he had a team of backers. To be honest, I admire him for taking over the club from McKeag.

  • IntravenusMP

    Sickandtiredstill IntravenusMP OK, I accept you don’t want to believe that NUFC were in trouble and the bank forced the hands of the major shareholders. Without obtaining confidential correspondence, nobody can prove this. 

    However, if you can’t believe NUFC were broke, perhaps the question is why did Hall et al sell an asset that had provided H&S with £1m salaries each year and £100m in dividends?

  • IntravenusMP

    Sickandtiredstill IntravenusMP The charges (Deeds of Assignment) are in place but there is not any borrowing in front of that charge. It’s almost certain to be in place to cover an overdraft facility and at 30 June last year, that overdraft was not utilised. 

    It’s a bit of a red herring, I thought I’d explained this, I can’t understand why you keep referring to this.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    IntravenusMP Sickandtiredstill Because it was renewed on the 9th September last year.

  • IntravenusMP

    Sickandtiredstill Do you have an overdraft facility on your bank account? Possibly yes? Do you use it all the time? Possibly no?

    It’s not rocket science, an overdraft facility of many millions does not mean there is millions of debt.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    IntravenusMP Sickandtiredstill I do of course. I am not required to give any security for that, let alone the majority of my income, the land my house sits on or brand/badge/ intellectual rights.

    Are you?

  • Sickandtiredstill

    IntravenusMP Sickandtiredstill Indeed. It can’t be proven, so why keep suggesting it when the only person to have actually said it is Ashley himself? 

    It’s public record Shepherd didn’t want to sell. He was left with little choice when Hall did, and Ashley was on the verge of gaining a majority – prompting a compulsory purchase/offer in which case Freddy would have been off the Board anyway.

    Hall did so as he wanted to retire, which he duly did. Ashley was prepared to pay the listed share price (or more) which really you would need ask yourself why – if it was a busted flush as you keep suggesting?

    The so called debt was largely because of the ground expansion and the overdraft at that time was less than it was in 2009! Hence Ashley re-mortgaging St James’ to finance his relegation disaster. 

    As many equal opinions can counter argue that the overdrafts and mortgages at that time were covered under the foreseen tv revenue increases.

  • IntravenusMP

    Sickandtiredstill IntravenusMP And I suspect you don;t buy £20m footballers (obvious joke can be added later). 

    Do you expect Barclays to offer £40m overdrafts to everyone without security?

  • Sickandtiredstill

    IntravenusMP Sickandtiredstill Aye, neither does the Club!

    Do you expect them to secure an overdraft against so many assets?

    PL income alone would cover that amount, which a charge was continued to be placed over. 

    Further charges against Benton, Badges/Brand/Intellectual rights too. 

    The current level of borrowing (supposedly nil) makes me wonder why such massive security is and has remained in place.

  • IntravenusMP

    Sickandtiredstill IntravenusMP Shepherd may have said that he didn’t want to sell buy he was actively involved with getting both Polygon and Belgravia involved although that may have allowed him to hang on. 

    I’d not put too much store by the words of Shepherd.

  • RobBrown

    I dont know about anybody else but I always think that when fans head their posts with “An Open Letter To…..” it all sounds so pretentious. Its as if they think they have something important to say, but they obviously don’t, otherwise they wouldn’t have to try to get your attention by starting with “An Open Letter To….”

    What exactly is an open letter? The concept is rather bizarre. It’s a letter sent to the public but addressed to someone famous, whose address the writer either doesn’t know, or is too lazy to look for.

    It generally presents itself as a plea for action from someone claiming to represent millions of others and is rarely centred around an original idea.

    The one above ends with “Why did you sell to Mike Ashley …..” and “why did you think he was a good option”

    What kind of questions are they?

    They sold to Ashley because he wanted to buy, and they thought he was a good option because he had money and was going to pay.

    I was under the impression that at the time Hall made the decision to sell, Shepherd was in hospital with Pneumonia and didn’t have a lot of choice.

    So what kind of answer you would actually expect from Freddy….?

  • IntravenusMP

    Sickandtiredstill IntravenusMP At £40m, yes given that it was rather high in comparison to turnover i.e. it was not far short of 100% of annual turnover. Would you bank give to an overdraft of 100% of your salary without security? If my bank were to to give me a £60k overdraft, they’d ask for my house, car and wife.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    IntravenusMP Sickandtiredstill I’m not sure when you are actually referring to?

    Anyhow, the bank can have my Missus for 60k, no problem.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    IntravenusMP Sickandtiredstill yet you believe Ashley’s version?

  • v0ices

    IntravenusMP hall sold because dougie had his main business in financial trouble he needed to raise cash fast to bail out Cameron hall. Selling the club raised that cash, Shepard never wanted to sell he was buying up shares as they became available he wanted to milk the cash cow for at least another decade. Hall did the deal for his majority shareholding behind Shepard’s back. Once that was done it was just about how much Shepard could get for his share no way was he going to be able to remain when fatty was already buying up shares to reach the magic 60%.

  • v0ices

    Peter Moustachley most billionaire are nasty pieces of work, Ashley is just slightly to the worse than average to be honest.

  • Toonarden

    Morpeth mag Actually I am sure it was £1.9b. Gone up a bit then though eh? Where from I  wonder?

  • mactoon

    An open letter to John Hall??? the man wo sold his shares to Ashley in the first place having been told he was going to use the club to promote his SD brand???

    Shepherd had no choice unless I am mistaken, he was in hospital with pneumonia when Hall sold up giving him no choice as it forced the sale

    or did history change when I wasn’t looking?

  • Sickandtiredstill

    Toonarden Morpeth mag 929 million he personally got when he first floated SD as he sold 43% straight away. 

    SD (the company) was initially valued at 2.2bn at that time before the share price fell slightly from 3 quid to 2.81. Its currently trading at 6.57.

    Poor lad, he mustn’t sleep at night worrying about how to spend his money – anywhere other than on his football club.

  • NotFatFreddy

    AN OPEN LETTER TO SANTA CLAUS

    Please can I have a real team kit like we wore in 1974 with the red numbers and the brazil style away strip we had in 76.

    Please can you get us a player like ‘Jinky’ Jim Smith who I first saw (aged 7) when he nutmegged England internationals Henry Newton and Ian Storey-Moore in one flowing sublime movement.  If not ‘Tony Green’ will do nicely!  Terry Hibbitt?  Supermac!

    Please can I have a whole new subbutteo team as I have broken the heads off the one in black and white stripes in frustration at my noisey neighbour’s red and white team always beating mine.

  • newcastle7

    They were two people who put a few hundred thuosand in and got £145m out plus the rest.
    They realised the gravey train was over and the club was in dire straits.
    Ashley invest £265m not taking a penny out to rescue the club and he is the bad man.
    You could not make it up.

  • Morpeth mag

    I agree entirely about, the Hall family and the Shepards and I think there wasn’t enough said about there running of the club, but to say that Ashley hasn’t taken any money out, is very very nieve, his free advertising alone must be worth £15 to £ 20 million ( Arsenal receive £30 million per season from advertising at there stadium) then there is the transfer of goods sold in the club shops going to sports direct also the sale of the lease of land at the back of the gallowgate.

  • IntravenusMP

    Morpeth mag You are right about the advertising but it’s SD who benefit, not MA sho only holds 55% of shares. The outsourcing of the merchandise sales is not bad for the club, it simply means that the profit goes into the coffers rather than the sales less the costs. say what you like about SD, they are very good at the logistics of delivering sports kit. The cost of distribution, sales etc is passed over to SD. SD have this arrangement for a number of clubs.

  • IntravenusMP

    Sickandtiredstill IntravenusMP I happen to know!

    Ask yourself why Hicks and Gillette sold Liverpool for next to no consideration? Why did Ridsdale sell to Gerald Krasner etce etc? THe answer is the same.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    IntravenusMP Morpeth mag Actually, once again that’s only your opinion.
    We have no clue what the retail ‘arrangement’ is with SD nor if it brings any profit to the Club.

    . If it’s anything like the one at Rangers then we’ll be getting well screwed.

  • IntravenusMP

    Sickandtiredstill IntravenusMP Morpeth mag We do, it’s in the accounts. Note on the final page

  • Sickandtiredstill

    IntravenusMP Sickandtiredstill Morpeth mag and once again, you’d believe that why?

    When Simon Bird (of The Mirror) asked at the SD AGM last year, he was told the business was worth 3.4 million to them. Those numbers in the accounts do  not reflect that in any way.

    Indeed, it says it made sales of NIL!

  • MackEdwards

    Look back at the google figures from when Cashley bought NUFC. He was “only” worth 880 million – not yet a billionaire. Cashley could reflect back on his wealth then and think to himself, “this club has done well for me, it’s about time I repaid the favour”. As they say though “pigs might fly”

  • IntravenusMP

    Sickandtiredstill IntravenusMP Morpeth mag I belive that because the auditor would have tested the income stream, that’s what auditors do.

    Simon Bird works for the Mirror, a left wing rag of little importance

  • IntravenusMP

    Sickandtiredstill IntravenusMP I’m afraid he house and car has to be thrown in.

  • IntravenusMP

    v0ices IntravenusMP it was not a cash cow for another day, never mind a decade it was off to slaughter. 

    no new money went into Cameron Hall in 2007 so I make your claim doubtful/.

  • IntravenusMP

    Andgeo how about you Andgeo putting your money where you mouth is and taking over?

  • Sickandtiredstill

    IntravenusMP Sickandtiredstill Morpeth mag Seriously, whatever the ‘paper’, no one EVER quotes someone without having proof of that. Sued immediately otherwise, and that hasn’t happened in this regard.

    You need to stop pontificating with your own opinions and back it up with facts.

    According to the accounts the Club bought only 841,000 of goods from SD in ’13 accounts. Do you really believe that is all our retail shirt demand was, let alone other kit?

    You seem hell bent on defending the regime with little more than your own opinion.

  • Morpeth mag

    You’ve contradicted yourself in your first sentence,, if Ashley holds 55% of a company and this company gets free advertising, Ashley is benefitting because of this free dvertising, that is fact, not conjecture.

  • Morpeth mag

    You’ve contradicted yourself in your first sentence. If Ashley owns 55% of a company and this company gets free advertising and this free advertising benefits this company, by owning 55% of this company Ashley is benefiting, that is fact not conjecture, I can’t explain this any simpler,,,,,

  • v0ices

    IntravenusMP v0ices I did no research at the time into where sjh deposited his ill gotten gains and care not at all what you make of my claim.

  • IntravenusMP

    v0ices IntravenusMP so why write it?

  • v0ices

    IntravenusMP v0ices that was whom I believed he had invested the money in, it was 8 years ago I lead a busy life I don’t concern myself with which of john halls business his numpty son had put into financial meltdown 8 years ago. Why do you write so much supporting Ashley?  Are you in a state of panic still plenty of sheep turning up to be fleeced don’t worry. The few who know better don’t seem to be able to sway the steeple yet.

  • IntravenusMP

    Sickandtiredstill IntravenusMP PL income would cover that but if the club is in arrears on transfer fees, the PL has a mechanism that intercepts the funds to pay the transfer fee so Barclays ask for more. It’s as if they have been burnt by this before ;-)

  • IntravenusMP

    v0ices IntravenusMP Not sure who the sheep are, the one’s who know very little about the finance of the club but follow some knuckledragging tw*ts who’ve painted slogans on their mam’s duvet set.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    IntravenusMP Sickandtiredstill Kind of contradicts the whole argument (and your opinion) that Ashley deals in cash payments now and paid off the ‘debts’.
    ‘Course, if that was actually true he wouldn’t have remortgaged St James’ in 2009 would he!