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Tyne Talk

Positive from Mike Ashley as Newcastle United takeover very much plays out in public?

2 weeks ago
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Is Mike Ashley now finally packing his bags at St James Park?

The signs are good from the Abu Dhabi end, with Bin Zayed Group Managing Director, Midhat Kidwait, happy to make regular statements updating on the alleged progress of the Newcastle United takeover.

As for the Premier League, when approached by journalists asking at what stage the takeover is at, with certain matters needing their input if a PL club is to change hands, they have refused to comment and said it is up to Newcastle United to make any comment on whether the football club is set to be sold or not.

Which brings us to Mike Ashley.

So far he has refused to allow any comment to be made by the football club or his people.

The situation is quite ridiculous and any decent football club owner would feel an obligation to reassure the supporters as to what is happening at least in general terms.

However, this is ‘I am Mike Ashley and I do what I want’, the sensitivities of Newcastle fans not even at the bottom of any list of considerations he will have.

If this was say Sports Direct, or indeed any other PLC, then Mike Ashley would be obliged to make a statement, as such public takeover coverage would/could have a significant affect on the share price.

When it comes to Newcastle United though, maybe with Mike Ashley it is a case of…’You say it best, when you say nothing at all’

Putting it plainly, the times when he has said anything in public these past 12 years, you struggle to remember many/any times when he was telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

It is eleven years ago, September 2008, when after undermining and forcing Kevin Keegan out, Mike Ashley told fans they could stop the protests as he promised he would be selling the club as soon as possible…

In 2013, Mike Ashley had the club release a statement saying that a new state of the art training complex was to be built, the project said by Ashley to be essential if Newcastle United were going to be able to compete. six years later and not one brick laid…

Who can forget May 2015 when the NUFC owner categorically promised (threatened!) the fans that he wouldn’t sell the club until Newcastle had won a trophy or qualified for the Champions League.

Moving forward to the sharp end of things, Mike Ashley went public mid-season in both 2017/18 and 2018/19 (very strange timing if somebody was genuinely trying to sell a Premier League club…) – October 2017 and December 2018, claiming a sale of the club was set to happen.

In October 2017, Mike Ashley made a public announcement that Newcastle United was now actively up for sale, his people then escalated the story very quickly, with Ashley putting up lawyer Andrew Henderson as his main spokesman (see below).

Newcastle fans were heartened to hear the lawyer say that he had been inundated with interest in buying NUFC, with a number of credible new bidders coming forward, as well as four who had already signed non-disclosure agreements, which would have allowed them access to the books/financial details of the club. The Amanda Staveley fronted bid of course became one of these new bidders but remember, Mike Ashley and his people made clear she was just one of many who could be buying him out.

Fast forward to 3 December 2018 and Mike Ashley pops up on Sky News, stating that the club could potentially be sold as early as within the next four weeks, stating that talks were at a more ‘progressed stage than they have ever been’ before. A strong statement considering only a year earlier, Ashley and his people were telling fans and media that they had whole list of credible bidders fighting to buy Newcastle United…

Peter Kenyon became the name that was linked with this latest episode of the club imminently to be sold BUT remember, Mike Ashley and his people were at pains to stress that there was loads of interest and that one of any number of interested parties could end up successful.

Of course, none of the above ever ended up happening.

Was there substance, was Mike Ashley telling the truth. Was it any different to promises to sell the club in 2008 (or indeed promises to back Rafa Benitez in a series of transfer windows…?), promises in 2013 to build ASAP a state of the art training complex, promises in 2015 to never sell the club until NUFC won a trophy or qualified for the Champions League, or indeed the very public claims of NUFC having a lengthy list of credible bidders wanting to buy the club in the middle of relegation battles in each of these last two seasons?

It might be a very simplistic way of looking at this but is it not the case of whenever Mike Ashley and his people are very keen and go public about the football club, we have now come to understand not to believe what they are saying? That the motivation of Mike Ashley for doing so, is instead hidden and not in line with what he is actually claiming at any particular time?

On this basis, I am actually feeling more positive the longer there is no word from Mike Ashley. Something which is also helped by the fact that despite no visible progress on the manager’s contract extension, neither side (Ashley’s or Rafa’s) has pushed their agenda in the media, blaming the other side for no resolution to the situation. This would surely be the case unless there were other factors in play, such as a potential takeover.

Like myself, the silence from the NUFC owner will be doing your heads in, but what it is telling me is that at last we probably have a willing seller.

Rather than other agendas and using the media to put out whatever, Mike Ashley has now very likely decided to sell the club (I believe) and that is the aim. Get as much money and as many other fringe benefits from any deal but just get it done and move on.

Here’s hoping for all of our sakes.

16 October 2017 – Andrew Henderson, a lawyer acting for Mike Ashley, talking to Sky Sports:

“Our intentions are to see if the club can be bought by new ownership, potentially by Christmas.

“This would allow seriously interested parties to put themselves forward.

“It would allow a diligence period to carry on, then hopefully by Christmas a sale could be concluded.

“To give the club the best possible opportunity of securing the positioning and investment necessary to take it to the next level at what is an important time in its history, its present ownership has determined that it is in the best interests of Newcastle United and its fans for the club to be put up for sale.

“To give an incoming owner the maximum possible flexibility to make meaningful investment in the club, including in its playing squad, the sale process will give interested parties the opportunity of deferring substantial payments.”

18 October 2017 – The Mag:

On Wednesday, Press Association Sport say that as well as four ‘interested parties’ having already signed non-disclosure agreements’ allowing them to study the club’s books, Andrew Henderson has also been ‘inundated’ with calls regarding buying the club.

19 October 2017 – The Mag:

Sky Sports have now on Thursday lunchtime put out an update from Ashley’s lawyer, with Sky Sports man in the north east, Keith Downie, quoting Andrew Henderson:

“Since Monday, a number of additional parties have come forward which we believe to be credible.

“We are also continuing to engage with a number of parties with whom we had entered into negotiations prior to Monday’s announcement.”

Mike Ashley talking to Sky News – 3 December 2018;

“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.”

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