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Tyne Talk

Comment: Why Mike Ashley really might be a willing seller of Newcastle United this time

4 months ago
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Mike Ashley.

After 11 years and 7 months in control, is he finally being genuine when he says he wants to sell Newcastle United?

On Monday night, he yet again raised the possibility, claiming talks were ongoing with potential buyer(s) and that Newcastle fans could even be already toasting the new owner(s) before we all reach 2019.

Like the rest of you, I will believe it when I see it.

However, I do think that there may be some room for optimism this time.

My take, is that any Premier League club would always sell, if it is put up at fair price.

It is over 10 years ago since Mike Ashley first said/claimed that he was going to sell Newcastle United. Since then, we have been consistently told that NUFC has still been up for sale, regardless of whether Ashley publicly claims it to be so at any given time.

My belief is that the club has not been sold because Mike Ashley hasn’t wanted to do so, or has been asking far more than it is worth, which equates to the same thing in reality.

Putting Newcastle United up for sale at a fair price, at any time, would have a number of different buyers interested, without a doubt.

So if I believe Mike Ashley has now decided to offer NUFC at a realistic price, I can then also believe in the existence of the four or more the media are saying are actively trying to buy it.

I 100% believe that if Mike Ashley is now a willing seller, at a realistic price, then we could finally see the back of him.

As to why he might suddenly be a willing seller, I have a theory as to why this could be, potentially/hopefully.

With Mike Ashley having ever more fingers, in ever more pies, then you can definitely see why he might want to free up £300m+.

As he was so keen to say not so long ago, the NUFC hasn’t got loads of cash to throw around, as his riches are actually ‘wallpaper’, the term he used to describe his wealth being tied up in shares.

The thing is though, to free up cash and fund his real life game of Monopoly, Mike Ashley has any number of times sold off some of his ‘wallpaper’.

Here are a few example of when he has sold off Sports Direct shares to fund investment elsewhere:

February 2013

Raises £100m by selling a tiny percentage of his Sports Direct shares (Shares trading at 430p at the time)

October 2013

Raises £106m by selling a tiny percentage of his Sports Direct shares (Shares trading at 712p at the time)

April 2014

Raises £218m by selling a tiny percentage of his Sports Direct shares (Shares trading at 893p at the time)

January 2015

Raises £117m by selling a tiny percentage of his Sports Direct shares (Shares trading at 725p at the time)

Ironically, each time he did sell off some Sports Direct shares, we had the football media (and some delusional Newcastle fans) wondering if he was doing it so he could then invest it in the football club…

Moving forward to Wednesday 5 December 2018 (today) and Sports Direct shares are currently trading at 292p. You only need to go back to 18 July 2018 (less than five months ago) and the shares were trading at 436p each, they have lost a third of their value alone in that time.

Newcastle fans have of course been protesting both on the ground and online, to try and make things as difficult as possible for Mike Ashley and Sports Direct. Maybe that has has some effect on the falling SD share price, maybe it hasn’t, but either way, Mike Ashley’s wallpaper is now worth a lot less than it did in July and a hell of a lot less than when shares were trading at 893p (more than three times as much as they are currently) back in April 2014.

Bottom line is that the £218m Mike Ashley raised back in April 2018, he would need to now sell three times as many Sports Direct shares to raise that same amount of money.

This is why I do believe it could be different this time.

Mike Ashley desperately needs cash to go on another few trips around the Monopoly board and with the falling price of his Sports Direct ‘wallpaper’, this is the time when he has (hopefully) had to accept that he has to properly put Newcastle United up at a market price, so he can generate £300m cash to play with.

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