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Opinion

5 days to go to save us from Mike Ashley 13th birthday Newcastle United celebration

6 months ago
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When we reach Saturday 23 May 2020, Mike Ashley will have owned Newcastle United for exactly 13 years.

That is of course unless we hear confirmation in the meantime that the NUFC takeover has gone through.

It was widely reported last month that the Premier League had been passed the relevant documents on 9 April 2020 by both Mike Ashley and the Saudi PIF bidders, to carry out their checks. The reports estimated up to around 28 days before we could expect the Premier League to complete their process and now we are already on 39 days and counting, Saturday would be 44 days…

None / not many of us imagined we would all still be in limbo at this point.

Not a case of panicking for me but you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t have the odd anxious moment considering how Mike Ashley has played us these past (almost) 13 years, pretending he was trying to sell the club for 12 of those near 13 years.

This current situation is actually the complete opposite of what happened 13 years ago.

The media were absolutely clueless as to anything happening until it was released to the media on 23 May 2007 that Sir John Hall had sold his 41.6% Newcastle United shareholding to Mike Ashley at a price of 100p per share.

Sir John Hall declaring about Mike Ashley and the deal:

“I have been associated with the direction of Newcastle United for nearly 20 years.

“In that time, I have led the club and, before I retired, led the team responsible for the modernisation of the club we all see today. It is now time for me to move on and let others take up the challenge of competing in the global marketplace.

“Mike Ashley is a major player in the sporting world and I am convinced that he is the right person to take my place and take the club forward.

“I am sure he will be good for the club and its loyal fans and indeed for the region. I wish him the very best and hope he enjoys it as much as I have.

“He has my full backing.”

There was some showboating from Freddy Shepherd, claiming he was going to fight the takeover, but in reality he knew immediately (or in advance…) the game was up, two weeks later it was announced that he had sold his roughly 28% shareholding for 1p a share more than Hall, Mike Ashley paying him 101p per share.

That obviously equalled control of the club, other smaller shareholders immediately followed, before then a point was reached where Mike Ashley could make the same offer to the thousands of fans who owned small numbers of shares each, the legal position being they had no choice but to sell and Ashley owning 100% of the club.

The Hall family were said to have pocketed around £55m for their shareholding which had cost a fraction of that, the same with the Shepherd family who banked around £38m.

On selling out to Mike Ashley, Freddy Shepherd declared that Ashley would be an:

“Excellent custodian of Newcastle United’s heritage.

“They [Mike Ashley and his Sports Direct retail empire] will provide the best opportunity for the club to flourish in the future, to the benefit of the company and its fans.”

As for Mike Ashley himself, he was quoted after completing the takeover in 2007:

“I am delighted to have this opportunity to invest in Newcastle United.

“The club has a fantastic infrastructure, for which Sir John and the board must take much of the credit. I am pleased that Sir John has agreed to remain as life president of the club.

“Newcastle United has a wonderful heritage and the passion of its fans is legendary.

“I am sure that, like me, they are already excited about the prospects for next season under the new manager’s [Sam Allardyce’] stewardship.”

What could possibly go wrong…?

We didn’t have to wait long, especially in the context of almost 13 years ownership now.

Within a year Mike Ashley had undermined and forced Kevin Keegan out after having initially promising him final say on transfers, only to secretly give that power to Dennis Wise. That led to mass demonstrations by fans against Mike Ashley in September 2008 and he told fans they could stop those protests because he promised to sell Newcastle United ASAP.

Now 12 years later other factors have helped force Mike Ashley to keep his ‘promise’ 12 years later, ‘all’ it took was a pandemic, worldwide recession and his retail empire facing serious problems.

The takeover confirmation can’t come a moment too soon.

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