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Mike Ashley or Freddy Shepherd?

8 years ago

Fantastically interesting that, in a series of drip-feed articles in the Chronicle in which dear old Freddy Shepherd is talking about his greatest hits, mostly as Newcastle chief executive – Alan Shearer, Kevin Keegan, Faustino Asprilla, second-place finish, the Entertainers, and all the rest of it – he says it would be silly to rule himself out as a future owner of our club.

Most of what he says is well known. Even the bit about coming back as owner is no surprise. He of course has already tried to buy back the club from Ashley after we were relegated. The problem that time was the price.

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Freddy Shepherd

This is the bit that, after the elevation of our hopes that this series of stories was surely intended to produce – an end to the hated Ashley, hated not least by the Chronicle these days – brings us back down.

Freddy is not the financial force that he was, even though he got a very good deal from Ashley in the first place. He is a bit older and not quite as rich and no longer carries the business heft that he did. His main commercial interest these days appears to be a share in the sports agency that looks after Wayne Rooney.

Ashley is a giant by comparison, and in any case will be wary of Freddy. Ashley has put it about that Freddy and Sir John snuck in a massive loan beneath his radar and he has had his work cut out ever since putting that error – of his – right.

It has been pointed out time after time that the loan was secured on the ground – mortgages are registered loans and the land he acquired was publicly saddled with the mortgage. It could not have been hidden.

So when he paid off the mortgage on purchase of the shares, and put the current account debts on a personal account with his holding company, he took on board all the debts the club had. Due diligence might not have been done, but at a later stage of the sale the mortgage would have come to his attention. A nasty surprise no doubt, but too late to disturb the deal, which he was desperate to push through. There is no doubt he would have backed out if the club was anywhere near insolvency, please note.

Nevertheless, having said all that, he will be wary of Freddy, who got a better price than perhaps he would have preferred to pay.

Turning down Freddy’s last offer was inevitable. And of course after that the team stayed together and Hughton got us straight back up.

Freddy is saying today that it is all up to Ashley. Freddy is ready to tango, and he is waiting to see if Ashley is ready as well.

Ashley would say come on Freddy, you know what you have to do – you have to make me an offer I can’t refuse. Freddy already has a box, which is Ashley’s flush-’em-out device to assess the seriousness of any suitor. But he is not making an offer.

I like Freddie. He’s a fan. We would know the difference between a Freddy-led club and an Ashley-owned club immediately. I’d love him to return.

He’s not making an offer because he can’t afford it just now. But if we are relegated next year, which is quite likely, Ashley will be readier to sell than the last time we went down.

My own personal view, unsupported by any evidence, admittedly, is that Ashley can see we will go down unless we invest. His asset-stripping will soon be over when he offloads Coloccini, Krul, and Debuchy. This will increase the amount of investment that is essential.


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