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28 Jun 2022, Edition - 2541, Tuesday

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Newcastle owner Mike Ashley in advanced talks to sell club for £350m



Mike Ashley’s controversial 13-year ownership of Newcastle could soon be over. A £350m sale to a consortium fronted by the Yorkshire-born financier Amanda Staveley is still to be finalised but documents lodged at Companies House last week provide proof that advanced negotiations are well under way.

The proposed deal would have Ashley loaning Staveley’s company, PCP Capital Partners, £150m in an attempt to get an agreement over the line. This complicated transaction involves a £200m up-front payment from Staveley’s consortium followed by a further £150m to be paid over a period of up to five years. The Companies House papers create a legal scaffolding enabling the ownership handover to proceed through a transfer of shares.

In January 2018, Newcastle’s owner dubbed Staveley a “time waster” following the collapse of a previous attempt to purchase the club but the new documents confirm she and Ashley have agreed a £13m deposit, which appears to have been paid by PCP Capital partners.

Staveley, who divides her time between Dubai and London, has been backed by the billionaire UK-based Reuben Brothers – whose property empire features extensive interests in Newcastle, including the city’s racecourse – and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). The latter is one of the world’s wealthiest sovereign wealth funds and the original plan involved PIF assuming an 80% stake in the club, Reuben Brothers 10% and PCP Capital the remainder.

Puzzlingly, and perhaps significantly, the Saudi investment is not mentioned in the Companies House documents made public on Tuesday, although the Reuben Brothers’ involvement is detailed. However, it is understood PIF remains part of the consortium.

Ashley bought Newcastle for £133m in 2007 and has given the club a £110m interest-free loan thought to be included in his £350m asking price. The retail tycoon’s willingness to lend Staveley £150m to facilitate a sale was confirmed in a “registration of a charge” at Companies House. A charge is the security a company gives for a loan.

Ashley has long been known for driving the hardest of bargains but the coronavirus-induced economic downturn has spelt extremely bad news for his retail empire.

The Premier League has received the necessary paperwork from both parties to proceed with the mandatory owners’ and directors’ test but it is understood that final step has not yet been initiated and is contingent on the finalisation of a deal.

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