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Mike Ashley sale of Newcastle United is ‘advanced’ – BBC Sport

2 years ago

Mike Ashley finally selling Newcastle United?

The weekend has been dominated by talk of this at last happening.

The Wall Street Journal broke the story on Saturday and that was immediately followed by pretty much every other media organisation following up with reports, additional information, guesswork, whatever.

The message coming out, was that the media had apparently/allegedly all known for some time about these talks going on between Mike Ashley (and his people) with various bidders hoping to buy Newcastle United, including this bid backed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with Amanda Staveley acting on behalf of him/them.

It has been reported that contact to buy the club was first made nine months ago by this Staveley fronted bid, with then serious negotiations over these past four months.

Not surprisingly, Newcastle fans have been asking the question, if everybody in the media did indeed know all about this before Saturday, why did not one single English media outlet/journalist mention it?

The answer to that from various, appears to be along the lines of fans have heard this story so many times and any journalist claiming a Newcastle United takeover could now happen would then be ridiculed. With also the claim that talks have often happened with potential buyers and continue to do so, with no indication that this particular one has advanced any further.

That of course all went out of the window with The Wall Street Journal  breaking cover and putting the story out, now everybody is claiming they have the finger on the pulse as to what stage this takeover is, or isn’t, at.

We then see ping pong style reporting as some media claim the NUFC takeover has progressed a long way down the line, only for others to then try and rubbish those positive reports, claiming a deal is nowhere near close to happening.

I suppose the one thing we can say is that this time there definitely does appear to have been contact and ongoing talks but is there reason to have hope?

With media such as The Wall Street Journal breaking it, it did give it more credibility than your average NUFC takeover piece. Then we have had the likes of The Guardian reporting on Sunday that they have sources close to the deal who have told them that they believe the deal is now 90% likely to go through.

Adding to this, BBC Sport have now got involved.

Dan Roan, BBC sports editor, has revealed that they have been told that talks are indeed ‘advanced’ for a Newcastle United takeover and their source said the chances of a sale are now ‘high’ in the very near future.

However, they said that the source had added ‘Ashley does not need to sell and he is unpredictable’, which of course is where we always come come back to.

Only a fool would believe the Mike Ashley PR spin that the only reason he has failed to sell the club over the past 12 years (after promising to do so ASAP in 2008, when he told fans they could now stop protesting) is because there has been no willing buyer.

The problem of course all along is that there has been no willing seller, Ashley having no intention of selling such a key asset.

He bought the club to help make himself and his retail empire richer by ruthlessly using NUFC to promote Sports Direct and associated brands/businesses, as Ashley’s people told Sir John Hall when buying the club in 2007.

Why would that change now, what would now persuade Mike Ashley to sell such a key asset.

Obviously there is always the hope he would reach a point where he might see a business opportunity that would need him to free up the Newcastle United money.

However, interesting/worrying to see the BBC report say that their source also describes the talks as ‘complicated’, which could still see the talks/deal collapse.

Rumours/worries have now existed for years that if indeed Mike Ashley ever agreed to sell the club, he would be insisting as part of the deal on an ongoing relationship/benefit from the club. Whether in the form of much of his advertising/branding staying at St James Park, training grounds, on the club website and social media etc etc and/or the retail arrangement between NUFC and Ashley’s retail empire, plus indeed potentially many other strands.

For anybody of a certain age, who knew when you first started gong to matches that supporting Newcastle United would end up so complicated…?

One thing for sure though, the status quo can’t continue, this club is broken under Mike Ashley and no amount of free season tickets can cover that up.

BBC Sport report:

Talks on the potential £340m takeover of Newcastle United by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund are “advanced”.

Negotiations between the Arab state’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley have been in progress for several months.

The chances of an agreement are now “high” according to one source familiar with the discussions.

But they also warned that the talks were “complicated” and a deal could still collapse.

“Ashley does not need to sell, and he is unpredictable,” said the source.

Businesswoman and financier Amanda Staveley is understood to have approached the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about buying the Premier League club.

She is thought to want a 10% stake in the club if a deal can be agreed with PIF, which would be the majority partner.

The takeover would be Saudi Arabia’s latest venture into sports investment.

Rival Premier League club Sheffield United are owned by Saudi Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who took full control from Kevin McCabe last year.

Any deal for Newcastle would require approval by the Premier League, and would inevitability be controversial.

Global sports organisations have been accused of being complicit in what is seen as the country’s attempt to ‘sportswash’ its human rights record.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International says Saudi Arabia has “an appalling record on LGBT rights, women’s rights, extra-judicial killings, beheadings, the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi, and their involvement in the ongoing conflict in Yemen”.

And it points out that while women have been allowed to drive for the past 18 months, Saudi female activists are still in jail for promoting the right to do so in the first place.

Saudi Arabia has recently been making efforts to present itself as more liberal, and to open itself up to the wider world as a place to do business, watch sport and go on holiday.

Last year the country staged heavyweight boxing’s rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr and has just unveiled detailed plans for a new race track that is poised to host a Formula 1 grand prix from 2023.

Earlier this month the Spanish Super Cup was also staged there.

The club have been relegated twice from the Premier League during Ashley’s 10-year reign.

Newcastle United, Staveley, and PIF have all declined to comment.


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