There is a train of thought that says Mike Ashley wants to sell Newcastle United simply because he’s had enough.

That he accepts he’s taken it as far as he can.  That the enmity of supporters has ground him down and he’s tired of protest, ingratitude or abuse.  He’ll even accept less than his preferred asking price to escape the nightmare.

Who knew Mike Ashley was so thin skinned?  After ten years of plodding from one catastrophe to the next disaster he’s finally arrived at the conclusion he should sell, nine years after everyone else.

I don’t buy it for a second.  Cash rules everything around Mike and it’s only in the profit margins that you’ll find whether it makes financial sense for Ashley to stick or twist.

How does Mike Ashley and his main business, the shop, profit from his ownership of Newcastle United?

First, Newcastle United are one of his store’s biggest customers averaging almost £2m of purchases every season.  In the last 4 sets of accounts (from July 2011 to the month after being relegated for the second time) Newcastle paid a total of £7.1m for their goods or services.

That’s only the declared sums too.  Reports showing the entire Newcastle merchandising website is just a front end feeding into the owner’s retail site make stark long unanswered questions about how close the Newcastle retail setup is to the one Rangers had. Accounting smoke and mirrors deciphered by Rangers supporters showed that they failed to even achieve the 4p-5p in the pound that had already been perceived as an outrageous profit grab by Ashley, Llambias and Rangers Retail.

Second, as we all know, the massive global exposure that Ashley’s brands enjoy off the back of Newcastle United continues to be provided completely free of charge, despite a distant promise that the club would start to be compensated for it.

Third, Ashley’s Property Development company faced no competition whatsoever when it came to the club selling off the lease on land behind the gallowgate end.  Having paid the club £5m for the land, a £60m+ property development has now had the green light.  The profit Ashley realises on this deal is yet to come to fruition, but it will clearly be significant.

Fourth, the growth in Premier league TV revenues mean that the club has doubled in value.  Without improving the club’s matchday or commercial performance, while actually worsening both, the huge TV income mean he can now ask for £400m for a club he paid £134m for with £70m of debt.  This growth has not stopped, and the asking price for the club will only grow, even if the low standards Ashley has set this past decade are maintained.

Finally, the personal expense of maintaining the club is minimal.  Even with a relegation to the championship in 2015/2016, Ashley’s loans to the club to keep it ticking over since 2011 come to just £4million net.

Football has been very good to Mike Ashley.  Ownership of Newcastle United has been very good for him and his shop.  So why would he take what Amanda Staveley is willing to pay and just throw that money into his pool to swim around in Scrooge McDuck style?  Why cut income streams and a ballooning asset he can afford to maintain?

Staveley would have to make it worth his while and pay over the market value. She is rumoured to have plans for a £300m bid lined.  With the £134m purchase price and further £144m of loans Mike Ashley has put in since, that would be a £22m profit on his total £278m investment. I assume he’d keep Strawberry place too.  Most of us would see that as good value.  But for all of the reasons outlined above, Ashley has a personal premium that would have to be satisfied before he would go.  The question is how much?

I would say it’s as much as Ashley would have to pay to get everything he has at Newcastle from another club.  That’s his reason for saying he’s willing to sell.  He has a £278m gap in his bank balance returning everything above.  If he could get all of that AND plug that gap, then he’d be profiting at no personal cost whatsoever. That would be something he would have to consider.  So how much would, say, Aston Villa cost him to buy?  How much for Leeds United, Sunderland or Sheffield Wednesday?  How much for any good size club with a history and a stadium to go with it that is available to buy.  Add that cost to his £278m outlay at our club and you have the price he would be willing to sell for.

Whether Staveley or anyone else would value the club as highly is another matter.

You can follow the author on Twitter @bigchrisholt

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  • steve pearce

    As I have said he wants to take his business interests up market. He has already identified targets he wants to but and any sale price will be worked out so he has leeway to achieve this. Also I believe there are no other buyers and Amanda Staveley is in a good position to in fact dictate her price.

    Now as you numpties haven’t even opened your Sunday papers yet they are full of reports that she will make 500 million available over the next two transfer windows and that we will buy Andros Townsend and that Hatem Ben Arfa wants to come back. Well I’d have Townsend but Fatty Ben Arfa would just eat all the junk food outlets in Newcastle empty in two days and then his weight would be so vast he would sink under the hallowed turf of St.James’s Park.

    Where they got this figure from is a mystery as she has not made a personal statement – more fake news but we shall just have to see…

  • 1957

    Clearly he still sees potential profit for himself and SD in football, I think today’s Mirror suggests he will look to ‘rescue’ a lower league team when he sells NUFC. Presumably the theory will be buy cheap, take a few years to try to haul the unlucky souls up a division or two on the cheap, while using them to plug SD free of charge, and sell them on for a profit!

    Another piece of outstanding journalism from a national paper albeit slightly more believable than the Sun on Sunday, who claim HBA is on Benitez list of transfer targets…

  • Toon69

    Don’t forget the £100m he’s gained from free advertising for SD too, so to say he’ll not sell for less than £400m to make a profit isn’t exactly true, I think he’d take £300m as he cud buy Sunderland for £60m & just move all his advertising 😆

    • GToon

      And drape extra advertising across the empty seats too. In fact he could devote half the ground to advertising, turn it into a big shop even.

      • Mark Spark


  • GToon

    “For a profit” would be the answer I imagine.

  • Jezza

    This is all a non story as far as I am concerned. I don’t believe for a second that Fatso genuinely wants to sell the club. He’ll still be here years from now.

    • Leazes Ender

      I think United are being used as a lever to drop Liverpool’s asking price….

    • FatParosite

      I agree in principle…. but quite a few stars are coming into alignment here. The Fat Parasite knows fine well he lost the war of words with Benitez & is very unlikely to go head to head with his greatest surviving asset in January. The situation at both the London Stadium & Goodison Park are going to make the poker game very interesting. Someone meets the buyout & suddenly Ashley has to make the decision to cash in and show his hand that he does not want to leave, or hang on to that which he knows puts a shine on his NUFC sale.

  • Leazes Ender

    I really don’t think you should add in the money into the equation that Ashley had to ‘insert’ to rectify his own penny pinching mistakes.

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      You may not want to but it the bidder has the same approach, they are not going to own NUFC.

  • Simon Ritter

    Excellent analysis, Chris. Whatever you might read in the press, my Fleet Street source says the most likely scenario is Cashley remaining as owner indefinitely. A lot of smoke and mirrors, as per usual from our owner.

  • Wor Monga

    Ok…that’s all taken on board, but to keep Rafa, and with him the goodwill of his players, and of course us supporters…he’s going to have to start paying out, and paying out big, in the very near future…for example the money the club accumulates from the TV deal will (as stated) have to go into the transfer fund…

    …If that doesn’t happen, which it hasn’t up to this date…then Rafa will go (his stock is rising fast) before the next window even bangs shut…the club will be in turmoil, players will rebel, and Charnley’ll have to resort to ask Beardo to take them on…but it would only be the block of compressed straw that flattened the camel’s back, for us supporters…

    …that would leave Ashley now not looking at an asset valued at over £300m or whatever because he’d be staring at a toxic empty stadium with a shop built into it worth sweet fek aall…

    …the wheels are in motion, the time has come and it’s time for Ashley to pay the ferryman, and go before his golden goose starts sh!tting on him from a great height!!!

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      what what Krap. there never will be an empty stadium at St James you idiot

      • Wor Monga

        …I’ve noticed that both you and the ‘childish name calling blogger’ called Soldier have a very close (and what some might term unhealthy) relationship when it comes to replying to my postings on here…it makes me wonder if… you could possibly share a desk in the same class at school or even be the same person, perhaps!!!

  • Paul Patterson

    I’ve said for a while now that it would make good financial sense to sell us for £300m+ and buy the mackems for £80m.
    And the transfer outlay on players in league 1 would be just about his level..

    • Stephen Paylor

      i would not be surprised at all if this is the goal for him

      • FatParosite

        What a laugh that would be….. But I’m not sure I would wish the Fat Parasite on anyone … even the great unwashed….

  • Philippines

    I only clicked on this to scroll down to tell you I didn’t read it. Why “MUST READ” garbage? Journalism should stand on its own merit. Only total tossers try to get the ‘grab’ in this way.

    • FatParosite

      Better than the Thomson House twaddle…..

  • Coach Clagnut

    Apparently fatty took a bet with Goldman Sachs ( [email protected] ) on Debenhams share price covering 10% of the total stock.
    He bet the price would be around 97p but, it’s around 45p and the options have become payable.
    Lardo now owes approx. 85 million on his losing bet. Add this to the 280 million he claims to be out of pocket since buying the N.U.F.C. and it’s not far off the speculated 350 million he is said is the minimum he wants before he, hopefully, waddles away, never to be talked of again.
    For the pedants out there, don’t take the share price figures as gospel. However, the total exposure to S.D. is, reportedly, 85 large.
    Couldn’t happen to a nicer fat bloke.

    • Mark Spark

      hopefully its true,anything thats makes it more likely he wants rid is good news to me

      • Coach Clagnut

        Everything he does is tied to his only love in life; sports direct. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if the bet was secured against his wallpaper wealth. Relinquishing an 85 million chunk of wallpaper, which is far more treasured than the rest of his assets combined, dilutes his holding and slips his grip a little.
        His holding company, MASH, receives phenomenal amounts of dividend income attributable, in the main, to sportsdirect dividends
        I can’t see any scenario that would jeopardise that income. Added to a plunge in profit and dive in the share price of his only love, he’ll be wanting to try to bolster it. Barrow Boy Style. He’ll be ducking and diving, dodging and weaving big time in an attempt to increase the dividends to MASH, increase the share price and ward off predators who might want to check the books.
        Had the bet worked in his favour, he’d be licking himself using penfold as lubricator extraordinaire,but he didn’t,he lost.

        A lot of shyt is hitting fatty’s fan. He needs to concentrate on everything except a high profile foootball club requiring a lot of feeding to be and remain competitive in order to grab a lot of that wealth for itself. Glory is for the fans only.
        Due to a combination of circumstances,I think his interests are better served elsewhere but we’ll all see soon enough. For the 9 years the club has been available, for a price and on a whim, I believe if he wants it gone, now’s the time.

        • FatParosite

          Nice to finally get someone on here who knows his onions and colours them too….

    • Wor Lass

      “… never to be talked of again….” You have to be joking. We`re still talking about the likes of Pardew, HBA, the Villa bedsheets and Trelford Mills. Cashley will be talked about forever!

      • Coach Clagnut


    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      I think you misunderstand his position, he was looking to acquire Dedenhams shares but he’s also got an exit point guaranteed. Put options are set up in this case to cover him.

      • Coach Clagnut

        Bottom line is, no matter the mechanics of it, he’s lost a bet, that, had it been a goal, it would’ve been a worldy,
        He bet on a share price reaching a certain point. The higher it got, the more he made, Goldman Sachs (Bookie To Billionaires) liked the odds. They believed the shares (10% of Debenhams) would be half of what fatty gambled and they won. He’s down 85 million. Payable on demand I believe.
        If he’s short of folding as claimed when strangling Rafa’s plans, he may not have that in hard currency. GS don’t mind cash alternatives and may fancy taking a chunk of fatty’s only true love in this worid.

        • Oooh bobbi fleckman

          But MA was quietly acquiring Debenham shares so it’s heads he wins.

          • Coach Clagnut

            So, by that logic, fatty got what he supposedly wanted but payed 85 million more for it than anyone off the street would have paid. Genius.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            That’s what hedging does, it costs more but guarantees your worst case position.

  • Mark Spark

    my happiness at how things are going with the team and manager is tempered by the fact that The Parasite is a proven liar, completely unpredictable and in the words of his own creature(Liambias) a horrible unt.I do believe there is a way he can leave the club with some profit and therefore a win in his own mind whilst leaving us in a very healthy positive position.Will it happen?Im not sure even he knows

  • X,WHY,Y MAN.

    The thing is we have been here before with Ashley and the phantom sale scenario.
    The last time he was backed into a corner was when he wouldn’t give the job to Shearer.
    He put the club up for sale saying he wasn’t funding it anymore and gave Chris Hughton the job.
    When it looked like promotion was nailed on towards the January window he then decides to take it off the market with a couple of cheap signings including Leon Best.

    What is to say he isn’t doing the exact same thing again by getting through a season without spending money ?
    It wouldn’t surprise me if we look safe after Xmas that he decides there are no credible buyers then comes out with the same lines again !

    • Paul Patterson

      I think this time, everyone knows there is a credible buyer, but as I said to someone in the pub before yesterdays match, it wouldn’t surprise me if negotiating starts at £300m, canny Mike tells the interested party, it’s £500m or no deal . .

      • X,WHY,Y MAN.

        I hope your right because this is the third time he’s pulled this trick !

  • Jimmy_toons

    The highest

  • Oooh bobbi fleckman

    Chris, nice article but I don’t agree with you entirely. We have a lot of discussion on Twitter so you’d not be surprised!

    Firstly, NUFC are a big customer (certainly not the only customer) of sports direct in terms of the procurement service. I can’t see that changing immediately. You have to establish what the new owners are going to do. They are not going to turn the merchandise off for a year whilst they set up a new supply chain. Even Mike Ashley persisted with Bruce Shepherd’s services until SD were ready to take over. The other point is who else will they use, bringing merchandise in house is not straightforward and more likely to use someone like SD or Kit bag. If the deal with Sd is comparative to that on offer elsewhere, SD will keep the gig.

    You compare our deal with Rangers but Rangers’ board are now very happy with the deal they have with SD on new terms. Rangers had an unfavourable deal with SD mainly because it was part of the loan deals with SD, Rangers had borrowed millions from SD. Until recently, SD had put more money into Rangers than any of the Rangers’ board members or any shareholders.

    The property deal was done in 2009 (?) and the club made a 33% profit on that deal having bought the lease in 2006. It was a rare profitable deal given that commercial property had suffered during the Gordon Brown financial crash. Any money St james’ Developments make is irrespective of who owns NUFC so that is a red herring IMHO.

    IMHO NUFC is worth more than £300m, if that’s the opening bid. It’s a turnkey investment, someone can come in, do nothing and let Rafa get on with it. Tight budgets on wages and the thing makes £40m as long as we don’t go down. Speculate a bit more and there is more to be made etc etc.

    Where else can someone get such a prestigious brand for less money? Well the obvious answer is Leeds but you have the sticky issue of getting them promoted first (8 owners later and still trying), they have a very expandable stadium but the reality is the whole ground was only used once last season, that was the visit of a certain Newcastle United.

  • Toontone100

    If he gets £300m – and lest face it that has been leaked deliberately slightly low for negotiations – he would have profited about £2m a year, in the 10 years regardless of the extra benefits earned via SD and its free advertising etc. That would give him plenty of cash (£300m) to buy and develop any new club (not already in the premiership) into a Premiership team and would only be reinvesting what he has previously invested – probably with a lot less investment to achieve that. This sale could drag on to get as much as he can but I cant see him refusing a very good return from his 10 years. Money is certainly his driver – it has nothing to do with the garbage being spouted about the best for NUFC etc. I just hope its over quickly & we can move on (and up) with someone who is prepared to reasonably invest (£500m is tosh !).

  • FatParosite

    Where is Lee Ryder when you need him? Here is an article that does not dumb down, minify and extract interesting facts. It’s nice to read something with more than one semi interesting sentence. It still puts me back to gut wrenching despair but cheers anyway Chris.