Mike Ashley Newcastle United legal case against Amanda Staveley – Details made public
A media exclusive on 9 January 2022, revealed that part Newcastle United owners Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi were now the target of legal action from Mike Ashley.
The media scoop came from The Mail, who reported that a High Court legal action had been launched by Mike Ashley against Amanda Staveley and husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi.
The report saying that Ashley had launched the legal move via his company St James Holdings, although the details of what the legal claim / action contained, had not yet been made public.
Just under two weeks later, it is The Mail again who have followed up their initial report, giving the detail to what it is all about.
The Mail saying that Mike Ashley is suing Amanda Staveley, demanding the return of an alleged £10million Newcastle United takeover loan, claiming she ‘broke conditions’ of deal which stated she would not criticise his 14 year ownership of the club.
The report says that Mike Ashley claims Amanda Staveley has defaulted on the loan ‘after violating an agreement not to criticise his running of the club in the media and refusing to allow some advertising from his company to remain at its home ground until the end of the current football season.’
They add that ‘Documents have been submitted at London’s High Court by Mr Ashley’s legal team, demanding the immediate return of the £10 million, plus interest, which he maintains was given to Ms Staveley to cover ‘advisory, legal and other costs and commissions,’ in return for sticking to the strict conditions.’
Meanwhile, the newspapers says that Amanda Staveley’s husband, Mehrdad Ghodoussi, is being sued as part of the proceedings in his role as guarantor that she would pay it back.
Any pretence of all being fine between the Newcastle United seller and buyers, totally out of the window, with Mike Ashley including in his documents to the court a claim that Amanda Staveley was only able to afford to buy her 10% share of Newcastle United, after being given a £30 million loan by the Reuben brothers, who are long-time friends and business associates of Amanda Staveley. The Reuben family in the shape of Jamie Reuben holding a 10% stake in NUFC as well, Jamie being the son of David Reuben and nephew of Simon Reuben.
The Mail reporting:
Under the loan agreement, completed last October, which forms the centre of the legal dispute between Ms Staveley and Mr Ashley, she had two years to pay back his £10 million. In court documents, his lawyers claim that she was well aware that if she broke any of the conditions, she would immediately have to return the money.
They state that this was specifically written into the loan agreement she had with him and that it would be considered a ‘default’ if Ms Staveley ‘admonishes’ his reign at Newcastle United publicly.
The document maintains: ‘Mr. Ashley wanted protection against public criticisms of his tenure as ultimate beneficial owner of NUFCL (Newcastle United Football Club Limited) by new owners and / or managers of NUFCL because such criticisms carry particular weight.’
The document claims that despite this, Ms Staveley publicly criticised Mr Ashley’s running of Newcastle United in the national media after the takeover, which ‘diminished’ his reputation as it portrayed it in a ‘negative light.’
It lists a series of media interviews where these comments were made insisting that they were ‘derogatory’ and brought Mr Ashley’s time at the club into ‘disrepute.’
His lawyers maintain that Sports Direct also suffered a ‘marketing loss’ after signage was removed from Newcastle’s home ground, St James’ Park.
Newcastle United fans were gutted and puzzled, when the October takeover wasn’t instantly followed by the removal of the stain of Sports Direct and Mike Ashley being totally removed from the football club.
The Mail have always been ahead of the game on this story and on 31 October 2021 we reported the following on The Mag:
‘The Mail state that the new Newcastle United owners have been forced to keep Sports Direct and related brand signage up inside St James Park, due to legal clauses that were inserted by former owner Mike Ashley ahead of the sale of the club.’
Amanda Staveley then on 11 November 2021 came out with the following quotes, when talking about the frustrations the new Newcastle United owners were facing, with the Premier League trying to delay / prevent new lucrative sponsorship deals being put in place (compared to the absolute joke that had been Mike Ashley milking Newcastle United for the benefit if himself and Sports Direct, with colossal free advertising and in most recent years, a pittance eventually paid):
“It is in the Premier League’s hands, but we will be seeking to do sponsorship deals as fast as possible. The moratorium does not stop us from working on them, getting ready for that time now. So it is really important.
“Our concern is that the process the Premier League do is quick enough so after we close the moratorium we can get sponsorships out. Obviously that’s a really important part of the process.
“The Sports Direct signs I’m looking forward to coming down.
“It’s a slight frustration when I go into the stadium and I try and take a picture which doesn’t have Sports Direct in it.
“We will inject our own money into the January transfer window.
“We are committed to investing in this club. We do not need sponsorship revenue to do that.
“We’ve already invested £38million [of equity] last week and we’ll invest whatever we need to enter into the transfer window. So we’re not stupid.
“We know January transfer windows are not where we really want to be. We’re committed to this club at every level.”
Whilst the Independent.ie carried these quotes from Amanda Staveley – Thursday 11 November 2021:
“This moratorium was so difficult for us. We’ve really taken a big battering. And so I’m hoping that we’ll get this lifted as quickly as possible.
“And then the Sports Direct signage will come off. With Sports Direct, I’m looking forward to it coming down.
“It’s hard because Mike was very fair, he did a good deal. He was fair to me, I was a pain in the a.se to him for years.”
It appears to be these comments that have almost certainly been the tipping point for Mike Ashley to chuck his toys out of the pram and launch his attack on those he sold the club to, after 14+ years of neglect and simply using NUFC to help increase his personal fortune. As The Mail state that it was on 17 November 2021, less than a week after those Amanda Staveley comments, that Ashley’s legal team asked her to pay the £10m with immediate effect. This legal action then following, when the money was not paid to him.
A spokesman for Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi have responded to the details of the legal action going public, making this statement:
‘A company owned by Mike Ashley has issued proceedings against Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi. The claim is connected to the acquisition of NUFC.
Ms Staveley and Mr Ghodoussi do not intend to comment on the details of the litigation, however they are very confident of successfully defending the claim in full.
The litigation will not distract Ms Staveley or Mr Ghodoussi from their hard work at Newcastle United, particularly as they focus on the opportunities and deadlines presented by the January transfer window.’
As Newcastle United fans, the fact that Mike Ashley wanted ongoing benefits from the club will come as a zero surprise. Nor will it come as any surprise that he is trying to cause problems for the new owners of the club. Especially at a time when they are in a desperate fight to try and avoid relegation, a relegation battle that is 100% due to what did and didn’t happen when owned the club. Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce ensuring that the new owners inherited an absolute mess and that if relegation does come about, it will be Ashley’s final triumph, making it three relegations in the 13 Premier League seasons he was responsible for.
As for what exactly this £10m deal / agreement between Mike Ashley and Amanda Staveley was really all about, who knows. It will play out in court and eventually whatever judgement is at the end of it, will give us some indication. However, from Ashley’s side of things, the fact he was so worried about criticism of what he did at Newcastle United and was trying to stifle it as much as possible, tells you everything. I think the new owners have been very restrained when it comes to not going to town on the shambles Mike Ashley has passed onto them, whether this was due to this deal between Amanda Staveley and Ashley, who knows. Though I think more likely, simply a case of how those who bought NUFC, choose to do their business. I think Newcastle fans though, would love in the future, to hear chapter and verse, what the thoughts of the new owners are, with regard to what they walked into at St James Park in October.
Exactly how the ownership model was constructed at Newcastle United and who paid whatever money, is their business.
However, I think any reasonable person knew that Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi were very much the junior partners when it came to finances, when you have the Saudi PIF and the richest family in the UK also involved, the Reuben family fortune valued at around the £20bn mark. Amanda Staveley and her husband no doubt having a few quid compared to most of us but in a different league financially to their NUFC associates.
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