One thing we do know for sure is that Mike Ashley met Amanda Staveley on Wednesday night.
The pair of them photographed leaving an Indian Restaurant with other recognisable figures, including the owner of the Express and other newspapers, Richard Desmond, and Ashley’s wife.
The meeting was well reported and it is possibly a toss of the coin whether the meeting was deliberately leaked by one or both parties.
What was discussed at the meeting has sparked a lot of debate and various claims as to where any deal was at, though a line taken by many of the newspapers, after apparently being briefed by one or more of the interested parties, was that February could be the earliest any deal could be completed.
Now The Mail have made an interesting report, that Mike Ashley has claimed he has a rival bidder interested as well as Amanda Staveley, a bidder who supposedly is prepared to pay £320m for the club.
It had been previously claimed and widely reported that a number of rival bidders, as well as the Amanda Staveley one, had been given access to the club’s books after signing NDAs (non-disclosure agreements).
However, over the course of months no identity of any of these rival bidders has been made public, if indeed they ever existed.
Part of the intrigue with NDAs, especially for the media, is that any claims can be made and when not backed up with fine details, can claim it is because nothing has been made public because buyers/seller have agreed to keep their contact quiet, as well as the details of what they have been allowed to see after the signing of an NDA.
Likewise with Mike Ashley and this report of him claiming a rival bidder, who knows whether he/she/they really exists? Based on everything we think/know of him, most would assume he’d be lying.
Everybody, including The Mail, is claiming that the current position is Staveley offering £250m, Ashley wanting £300m, now a rival bidder claimed to be offering £320m. It does appear too good to be true and if so why wouldn’t Mike Ashley be snapping the rival bidder’s hand off? If you believe the rival bidder exists then maybe you could also imagine that this £320m includes various clauses including a relegation one.
We arrive back at the same position, speculating and just hoping that the end result is the right one, and arrives sooner rather than later.
A thought that keeps coming back to me, is that if Amanda Staveley’s £250m bid is way below what the club is really worth, as Mike Ashley clearly seems to think so, then surely another bidder/bidders would be coming forward. Very rarely are sizeable Premier League clubs up for sale and the PL’s announcement of the new TV packages (200 of 380 matches shown live, extra games shown live at 7.45pm on Saturday nights etc etc) to kick off in 2019/20 are going to see serious extra money going to everyone in the top tier.
For me there is no doubt that if a new ambitious owner comes in, then there is massive scope for them to do so much better both on and off the pitch than the chaos we see under Ashley and the club ran with a skeleton staff behind the scenes, with no serious attempts to bring in extra commercial revenue.
Until that change (takeover) happens then no real rebuilding of the club can happen, whatever Rafa Benitez tries to do, he is simply firefighting and trying to attach some stability to playing affairs at a club that has stumbled from one disaster to the next under Ashley.
‘Understand that no agreement was reached during their dinner at a curry house in Hampstead and the offer from Staveley and PCP Capital Partners remains at £250million.
Mike Ashley is holding out for £300m and has claimed that a rival bidder is prepared to pay £320m, although no details are known of the second party.
Another complicating factor is Newcastle’s performance on the pitch and the threat of relegation from the Premier League.
Benitez is desperate to reinforce a squad he believes was left short after the summer transfer window and has called on Ashley to invest, reminding him that a club heading for the Championship will not be as valuable to prospective buyers.’