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Only 10% chance Mike Ashley won’t sell Newcastle United this time – Guardian sources close to deal

10 months ago
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A positive update on Sunday with regard to Mike Ashley and the latest Newcastle United takeover tale.

Saturday had seen The Wall Street Journal break an NUFC takeover story this time.

They reported that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s investment vehicle, was the key funder of this claimed latest attempt to try and buy Newcastle United from Mike Ashley.

The Wall Street Journal piece also stated that Amanda Staveley was the one acting between buyer and seller.

It is The Guardian who have now added something interesting to the story and compared to the rest, they are obviously a far more credible carrier of news than most.

They say that they have spoken to sources close to the deal and that as things now stand, they are ‘90% certain’ that this Newcastle United takeover will succeed.

Newcastle United fans will understandably remain sceptical that any takeover will happen of course, with it now 12 years since Mike Ashley told Newcastle fans they could stop demonstrating against him as he promised he would sell the club ASAP.

Quite clearly, the NUFC owner has never had any intention of selling Newcastle United in this 12 year period, as the control of the vast majority of other major English clubs has changed hands at least once, with it a case of multiple times for some.

So is he genuine about selling this time, as the media are now united in reporting that there are definitely a number of interested buyers in talks with Mike Ashley and his people?

The biggest negative The Guardian come up with is that because news of this potential takeover has leaked out before a deal has been done, with Mike Ashley claimed to be ‘unimpressed’ by that. Other media having referenced previous comments from Ashley were he said any successful sale of the club would almost certainly happen before anything was leaked to the media.

However, this is surely the most feeble of reasons/justifications that could be used if Mike Ashley didn’t sell to a willing buyer.

The idea that Ashley wouldn’t go ahead with any deal (buying or selling) that he thought would massively benefit him, just because news leaked out early, is laughable.

Also, he has said so much nonsense that turns out not to be true in his time owning NUFC, why believe this one? From promising in 2008 to sell ASAP, promising not to consider selling until Newcastle had won a trophy, to promising to give Rafa Benitez ‘every penny’ to spend before insisting on a £20m+ profit on transfers in the summer 2018 transfer window, we have heard countless claims/promises that prove worthless.

If there is a genuine buyer (or buyers) this time, then just like so many times over the years, Newcastle United will only not be sold if Mike Ashley refuses to.

Extracts from The Guardian report:

‘A shell company has been registered to facilitate the potential £340m takeover of Newcastle United by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund as sources close to the deal claim they are now “90% certain” it will succeed.

It seems the coming week could prove critical as a “tipping point” has been reached, dictating that the next few days will either see the club’s current owner, Mike Ashley, sell up or a takeover first proposed nine months ago founder.

Amanda Staveley, the Dubai based financier serving as a conduit between the Saudis and Ashley hopes to assume a minority 10% stake in any final agreement and, on 6 January this year, set up PZ Newco Ltd with an address on London’s Park Lane.

The PZ refers to Project Zebra – the codename for the planned Newcastle takeover – and the two listed directors are Staveley and her husband, Mehrdad Ghodoussi. The fledgling company would be used as a vehicle to transfer shares if any deal is finally completed.

Although due diligence has been completed and advanced talks have been taking place for four months that remains a significant if. Particularly as Ashley has previously said that the leakage of details of any proposed takeover before contracts are exchanged would make it unlikely to happen. In general, major football buyouts – most notably Abu Dhabi’s of Manchester City – are conducted amid blanket secrecy.

Tellingly Ashley is said to be “unimpressed” by this latest leak, which all involved parties acknowledge has placed the transaction in jeopardy. Moreover the retail tycoon described a previous attempted by Staveley to buy Newcastle as a “time-wasting” exercise.

Even so, Ashley is still negotiating with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s investment vehicle – and, although senior figures at Newcastle remain sceptical as to the outcome, Staveley’s camp have made detailed plans for the football operation at Newcastle after a transfer of power. There would though be “no kneejerk” changes with Steve Bruce expected to remain as manager. 

Project Zebra’s vision includes not only a £200m investment in Bruce’s squad but the regeneration of run-down parts of Newcastle in much the same way that Abu Dhabi’s royal family has invested in areas of east Manchester since its 2008 purchase of City.’

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