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Opinion

Mike Ashley private plane arriving back in UK is big Newcastle United takeover red herring

5 months ago
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Mike Ashley and his private plane are once again making headlines.

The plane landing on Sunday night at Luton after travelling from the States.

No confirmation as yet that Mike Ashley was on the plane but safe to say he almost certainly was, with the NUFC owner having fled the country last month during this virus crisis for his second home in Miami, after disgracing himself with his behaviour in regard to both football club and retail empire.

Embarrassingly, both local and national media have made this into a football / Newcastle United story.

As though wherever Mike Ashley is in the world will have any bearing whatsoever on the NUFC takeover.

Ashley has already agreed to sell the club, accepting a £17m deposit after signing off the deal with the Saudi PIF financed bidders, the sale formally set to be announced once the Premier League have completed their process / checks.

Do the media honestly expect people to believe that Mike Ashley will need to be at St James Park to hand the keys over?

Or that the FCB would be making it into some big public handing over PR event when the new owners take control?

Back in 2007, after meeting John Hall and agreeing a price to buy his shares, Mike Ashley left it to his people to do the rest. To arrange the details of buying up Shepherd’s shares and everybody else’s, sorting the paperwork etc.

Mike Ashley has NEVER been hands on with Newcastle United and that won’t be changing now he is set to (figuratively) walk out the door.

On the other hand he is VERY much hands on with his retail empire and always has been.

Mike Ashley of course shamed himself when trying to keep the Sports Direct stores open during the virus crisis by claiming they were ‘essential’, only for the government to force him to close them.

That was then the trigger for Ashley to head off to America, as his high street empire wasn’t allowed to operate as usual.

However, on Friday at 7am, Mike Ashley released an official statement via his Frasers Group PLC (formerly Sports Direct International Group) revealing that he/they have finally resolved the 674m euros (£605million) dispute with the Belgian tax authorities.

The statement also indicated there were other major issues confronting his retail empire: ‘Frasers Group would also note that it has currently not been accepted as eligible for the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).’

The Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) is what the government introduced to help support businesses affected by the virus situation.

Events of the last few days have seen clear indications and media coverage that the retail sector is set to slowly but surely return towards some kind of normality, with different categories of retail to open as we move forward.

From what I have read, whilst the likes of Sports Direct won’t be at the early stages of opening up again, it does look as though it won’t be too long before Ashley has his high street / out of town premises open for business again.

With his billionaire retail empire wobbling badly, no wonder Mike Ashley has now arrived back in the UK.

Ashley has seen the Frasers Group share price crash by almost 60% in the past eight weeks and he will be also wondering just how much damage he did in terms of negative PR own goals, with his appalling actions in the early days of the virus crisis.

He will now be throwing everything at saving his retail empire and whilst being able to put £300m in his back pocket from the sale of Newcastle United will come in handy, that isn’t why he has flown back into the UK.

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