The ‘Billionaire’ who was going to buy Newcastle United now in jail – Incredible story
Anybody Newcastle United fans remember Henry Mauriss?
If you recall, it was back in 2019.
With the Saudi Arabia PIF led consortium finding their bid to buy Newcastle United stalling as the Premier League wouldn’t allow it through (which turned out to be simply a case of needing to have the TV piracy issues sorted out with beIN Sports).
Henry Mauriss came forward with an offer to buy Newcastle United from Mike Ashley instead.
As was the case with any other claimed interested party in buying Newcastle, fans instantly searched online for details of Henry Mauriss.
Whilst countless NUFC journalists / media were lazily declaring how this billionaire businessman looked set to buy Mike Ashley out, even cursory searches online left Newcastle fans scratching their heads.
Henry Mauriss didn’t feature at all in any rich lists of billionaires, nor did anything else add up to him in any credible way having the financial power to buy Newcastle United.
I remember at the time being bemused with what so many journalists were putting out, as clearly it would have taken only seconds for them to discover that there was absolutely nothing to back him up as a credible potential buyer of Newcastle United.
His big business interest that you could find details of was something called ClearTV, but again, the financial figures surrounding that particular business didn’t remotely suggest he would have the financial muscle to take over at St James’ Park.
Now the story has been told by Adam Crafton, a superb bit of writing for The Athletic, as he exposes the full Henry Mauriss story.
It is a near 7,000 word piece on The Athletic and a must read in my eyes, here are just a few brief outtakes.
Certain Newcastle United journalists will be very embarrassed when reading the piece on The Athletic, especially certain ones who continued to insist Henry Mauriss was / had been a credible potential buyer of NUFC, despite countless fans pointing out the obvious.
Henry Mauriss now in jail, rather than the Newcastle United boardroom, who would have guessed…
Adam Crafton writing for The Athletic about Henry Mauriss – a few outtakes:
The FBI received information from several former employees and associates of Mauriss, including one who provided evidence that Mauriss had provided misleading financial figures at ClearTV in order to secure funds from investors. The employee only discovered this when colleagues were discussing a credit facility and they worked out that the CEO had given them considerably different misleading financials. The employee was informed shortly after that one of the long-term retail investors was already in talks with the FBI.
One former employee, speaking now, says he would “not trust Mauriss with my dog”.
Several associates and former colleagues now believe Mauriss entered the acquisition process for English football clubs without a true intention to purchase, as he would have ultimately failed the owners’ and directors’ test for the Premier League or Football League.
They argue his real motivation was to improve his web search results because filings of the cases against him made it hard to continue to raise money.
A lawyer who worked on due diligence about Mauriss on behalf of a client, who wished not to be named to protect business relationships, formed the opinion Mauriss had been misleading people for a long time. He summarised his opinions by saying: “At some point, he seems to have worked out that trying to buy football clubs, or getting gullible football journalists to write about him trying to buy football clubs, might help him sell those bonds, or swap them for something that does have more value.
“I suspect there were two motivations for targeting English football clubs. One, he might actually pull off one of these deals by persuading someone to lend him some money so he can get into a club long enough to skim off the ticket or TV revenue. And two, the press clippings would legitimise him and help him sell his bonds. Mainstream media outlets calling him a “US billionaire” creates buzz and hype — if a publication calls him a billionaire, well, there’s your due diligence! What concerns me — as a lawyer — is that this only seems to happen in the football industry.
“If Mauriss walked in and tried to buy Coca-Cola or Apple, he would be laughed out of the building and nobody would ever hear about it. But it seems any old con artist can say they want to buy a football club and — before you know it — it’s in the papers and fans are speculating about which players their new billionaire is going to buy them.
“I think that’s a moral hazard and the football industry should do something about it. There should be some basic rules, some minimum standards, about how you approach clubs if you want to buy them. Instead, we seem to get these fairy tales about billionaires, and with Mauriss that was clearly incredible to anyone who did any real due diligence on him.”
Three years later (after supposedly trying to buy Newcastle United), in April 2022, Mauriss again agreed terms with an incumbent owner to purchase an English club. This time, it was a fee of £115million to purchase Sheffield United.
Once more, the deal did not go through. And the reasons for this form the basis of this story, a lengthy investigation in which The Athletic can report the scarcely believable tale of how, for several years, a fraudster attempted to persuade football executives and middlemen of his merits as a possible custodian of famous clubs.
Of a man who is, in fact, currently locked up in a California jail, serving a sentence for wire fraud. Mauriss was under sustained FBI investigation throughout his attempts to buy Newcastle and he even had a self-surrender date in place during his failed bid for Sheffield United.
Sheffield United lost time negotiating the sale of the club to Mauriss, a man who now receives 6am wake-up calls in a Los Angeles jail and 8am inspections from prison guards to check that his bed has been made properly.
Now, for the first time, The Athletic can detail the true extent of Mauriss’ scheming and criminality, including:
Mauriss received orders to stop marketing securities in Texas and California as far back as 2006 and 2008 after being found to have misled investors.
In 2016, the FBI began investigating allegations that H. Mauriss operated a scheme for the purpose of fraudulently obtaining funds from investors, receiving more than $10million in investor funds from at least six individual investors.
Mauriss’ company ClearTV Ltd was delisted from the Bermuda Stock Exchange due to its failure to meet on-going obligations under the BSX Listing Regulations.
During Mauriss’ failed attempts to purchase Newcastle United, the businessman racked up unpaid bills worth hundreds of thousands of pounds to major British sports law firm Northridge Law, which most recently advised on Roman Abramovich’s sale of Chelsea, as well as six-figure sums unpaid to associates advising on the deal.
Mauriss has been the subject of multiple legal claims, including an eviction notice when it was alleged that he failed to pay rent for his ClearTV office space in Burbank, California (although we have been unable to establish whether the claim was successful).
And, in a separate case, over $500,000 for failure to pay to lease equipment for his company.
Mauriss’ proposed takeover of Newcastle was laced with risk, as his proposal included a draft document with MSD Partners for a £150m loan which included interest rates of 7.5 per cent per annum, rising to 8.5 per cent in the event of relegation to the Championship and defaulting altogether in League One.
Mauriss wanted to recruit the Rolling Stones guitarist and artist, Ronnie Wood, to the Newcastle ownership team, even drawing up a proposal which would see Wood receive £3.3m worth of shares and a £500,000 sign-on fee.
As part of the agreement, Mauriss wished to receive several paintings (three for personal use and one for the St James’ Park boardroom), while Wood would also be expected to commit to performing curated gigs at Newcastle’s stadium and appearing at matches 3-4 times per season.
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