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Mike Ashley PR people make new moves to deflect criticism ahead of Rafa Benitez leaving Newcastle

3 years ago

Mike Ashley will be feeling extremely pleased with himself.

He successfully managed to get Newcastle fans to call off their boycott of the Wolves match and scale back protests in December. The owner making a surprise appearance on Sky News (see below) on 3 December 2018 claiming a sale of the club was imminent, maybe even by the end of December, stating ‘Talks are at a more progressed stage than they have ever been.’

Then he has watched on as despite no net investment in the squad this season, Rafa Benitez has guided the underfunded squad into 14th place with nine games remaining, within touching distance of early Premier League safety once banking a couple of more wins.

Obviously, all Newcastle fans are looking ahead to the end of the season to see what will then happen between Mike Ashley and Rafa Benitez, but the NUFC owner is already making preparations for that behind the scenes.

Not necessarily to actually make any kind of proper attempt to keep the much decorated manager, instead he is simply preparing for the PR fallout if Rafa Benitez walks away.

Today it is exactly 91 days, thirteen weeks, since that infamous Sky News appearance, and now less than 10 weeks before Newcastle are set to play their final match of Rafa’s existing contract.

A new report has been put out by the Press Association (see below), where they clearly have been briefed by somebody. That somebody surely being one of Mike Ashley’s people.

The key message of this new report/update is that Mike Ashley is claimed to be fed up with people claiming to be potential buyers of Newcastle United but actually just wasting his time.

The PA report stating ‘Sources close to Ashley have indicated he believes at least some have embarked upon “tyre-kicking” exercises, and that he will no longer entertain that kind of approach.’

Do you ever have the feeling that you have been played…

How on earth does this all tally then with that TV appearance by Mike Ashley 13 weeks ago, claiming talks were at such an advanced stage? Such an advanced stage where he’d never even thought to ask if the bidders had any money…

To make it even more ridiculous, two days after the Sky News interview on 5 December 2018, Mike Ashley’s people (surely) got Sky Sports to report (see below) that there had now been four ‘acceptable bids for Newcastle United and a sale is imminent.’

It is all too predictable the picture/storyline that Ashley’s people are building up ahead of the end of the season. Mike Ashley having done everything humanly possible to see Newcastle United but sadly the owner finding himself mobbed by timewasters, which means ‘sadly’ he can’t sell the club and poor pauper Ashley and cash-strapped NUFC can’t afford to finance the unreasonable demands that Rafa Benitez is making, before he will agree to sign a new contract.

As always, these Mike Ashley PR offensives aren’t aimed at convincing Newcastle fans (any supporters who are duped is simply a bonus), instead it is simply to get the local and national media slavishly repeating his storyline/agenda, as well as getting plenty of neutrals to believe his narrative.

As somebody once said, so long as Mike Ashley still owns a shop, he won’t be selling Newcastle  United.

The Mag – 3 December 2018:

Mike Ashley has announced on Monday night that Newcastle United could be sold before the end of this month.

The NUFC owner stating that talks with the potential buyer are way beyond any previous talks with anybody wanting to buy the club and that it is ‘possible’ a deal could be done and dusted in December…

Mike Ashley talking to Sky News:

“I am hopeful for the Newcastle fans, for the club, for everybody, that I will be able to step aside and we will be able to get an owner in that can please everybody.”

‘When will that be?’

“When would I like it to be?

“I would like it to be before the January transfer window.”

‘Is that realistic?’

“Hmmm. Realistic? It’s possible, realistic is maybe too strong a word.

“Hopefully we can carry on the good form…just recent good form…and we can get the deal done.”

‘So you are in exclusive talks with someone right now?’

“Not an exclusive but…

“Talks are at a more progressed stage than they have ever been.”

‘And whoever buys the club would presumably have to put in transfer funds for Rafa Benitez?’

“Yes, I’m very keen to sell it to the right buyer, so everybody is happy, that would be good news.”

The Mag – 5 December 2018:

Mike Ashley has now received four acceptable bids for Newcastle United and a sale is imminent, according to Sky Sports.

The broadcaster says that Ashley is now negotiating with the various parties, with Sky stating that they have all at least matched the NUFC owner’s £300m valuation.

Newcastle fans will be naturally sceptical (don’t shoot the messenger!) about the Sky Sports claims, after over 10 years of the club being allegedly for sale.

The Independent with update/report from Press Association today (4 March 2019):

‘Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has drawn a line under the club’s latest takeover saga – but it remains up for sale.

The Sports Direct tycoon put the Magpies back on the market in October 2017 and has since entered into negotiations with a series of potential buyers, to date to no avail.

Ashley raised the hopes of fans desperate to see a change of ownership at St James’ Park in December when he revealed he was in advanced talks with prospective purchasers after at least four consortia – one led by former Manchester united and Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon – made their interest known.

However, Press Association Sport understands he has lost patience with the lack of progress since and at the expense of engaging solicitors to process the necessary paperwork, including the non-disclosure agreements signed by both parties in each case.

In the circumstances, he is ready to call time on those discussions, just as he did when Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners attempted to mount a takeover in November 2017, and send out a message that he is only prepared to deal with those who can demonstrate that they have the funding in place to launch a genuine bid and the will to push it through.

It is understood that several of the most recent expressions of interest were made on the basis of securing finance following initial discussions, and that has simply not happened.

Sources close to Ashley have indicated he believes at least some have embarked upon “tyre-kicking” exercises, and that he will no longer entertain that kind of approach.

However, should anyone actually come up with the money – he has never publicly named his price, but it is widely accepted to be in the region of £300million – he is still keen to sell having freely admitted the Premier League is too rich for his pocket.

The uncertainty over the club’s ownership and future investment has left manager Rafael Benitez in limbo as he considers his own continued presence on Tyneside.’


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