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Chris Mort named as the man leading the Newcastle United takeover negotiations

2 years ago

An interesting update from The Athletic regarding the potential Newcastle United takeover.

The Wall Street Journal having lit the touchpaper on Saturday and now the media full of takeover talk yet again.

Fair to say that there is still a very healthy air of scepticism carried by Newcastle fans and who can blame them after these past 12 years of Mike Ashley ‘trying’ to sell the club.

Could this time be any different?

For the first time has he any genuine intent in terms of being willing to sell Newcastle United?

Well there has certainly been talks going on but will they lead to anything of substance this time.

David Ornstein is football correspondent for The Athletic and he has revealed that it is Chris Mort who has been leading the negotiations with Mike Ashley’s people to try and complete a deal on behalf of this Saudi backed bid.

Mort took a year off from his usual day job to run Newcastle United back in 2007 after Mike Ashley bought the club.

So obviously somebody who understands the inner workings of NUFC better than most.

This piece in The Athletic also states that talks had started as far back as when Rafa Benitez was still manager.

Since leaving Newcastle United at the end of June 2019 at the very end of his NUFC three year contract, Rafa has said that he was hoping for a takeover to happen, with that becoming clearly the only way he could have stayed on.

Unable, not surprisingly, to accept staying when Mike Ashley would be imposing new signings on him and the manager having no say, which is how we ended up with around two thirds of last summer’s spend going on Joelinton, a player Ashley insisted, for whatever reason(s), had to be bought.

Maybe the takeover talks were the reason for Rafa Benitez sticking it out to the bitter end, in the hope that something might have happened before his NUFC deal ended.

As always, we live in hope…

David Ornstein writing in The Athletic: – Monday 27 January 2020:

‘Chris Mort, the former Newcastle United chairman, has been spearheading Amanda Staveley’s latest attempt to buy the club from Mike Ashley.

Staveley and her PCP Capital Partners firm made three unsuccessful bids to purchase Newcastle in the winter of 2017-18, but she is now the figurehead of a consortium which features Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund in a majority role. They value the club at £340 million.

The Athletic understands that Mort, a partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, the law company, has again been leading negotiations with Ashley’s associates, including Justin Barnes, the retailer’s trusted adviser.

Mort spent a year as Newcastle’s chairman in the early days of Ashley’s ownership, leaving St James’ Park in the summer of 2008. He assisted Staveley in her previous efforts to complete a takeover of the club, which finally broke down when a source close to Ashley told Sky Sports News that talks had “proved to be exhausting, frustrating and a complete waste of time.”

Then, as now, David and Simon Reuben, the property investors, were attached to the bid alongside Staveley. The family, ranked as the second most wealthy in the UK by the Sunday Times Rich List last year, represent 20 per cent of the consortium which, until recently, was known by the informal codename “Project Zebra”. The Reubens are reported to be worth £18.664 billion.

It is the other 80 per cent which will cause both excitement and prompt controversy amongst Newcastle supporters and beyond, given the level of wealth connected to Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is chaired by Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the kingdom’s crown prince and the country’s chequered human rights record. It is thought that involvement by the Saudis is likely to be welcomed in government circles given the Conservative Party’s commitment to invest in the north following their recent General Election win.

The Athletic has been told that initial talks between Staveley and Ashley’s inner circle stretch back to before the departure of Rafa Benitez as Newcastle manager last summer but, after a long period of due diligence, intensity has ramped up in recent days.’


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