By Rebecca Smith and David Hellier
A Saudi Arabia-led investor group is in talks to buy Newcastle United, the Premier League soccer team owned by British billionaire Mike Ashley, for about $445 million, a person familiar with the offer said.
Ashley has been struggling to offload the team in recent years and it was unclear whether he would accept the offer, the person said.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s key investment vehicle, along with a group of investors led by British financier Amanda Staveley were making the offer, Dow Jones reported earlier.
A spokesman for Staveley declined to comment on a possible offer. Calls to Ashley’s spokespeople weren’t immediately returned. Representatives of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund also didn’t immediately respond.
Ashley is a serial buyer of ailing U.K. high street names from House of Fraser to Evans Cycles. He bought Newcastle in 2007 for 134 million pounds and put it up for sale as early as 2008. Fans quickly soured on Ashley following the departure of manager Kevin Keegan.
Newcastle, now coached by Steve Bruce, is currently 14th in the elite 20-team Premier League, sitting 7 points above the relegation zone. Newcastle in the far northeastern part of England is one of the country’s biggest cities. – Bloomberg
Meanwhile, Middle East Eye reports that should the deal go ahead, fans will be hoping for an injection of capital similar to Gulf neighbour Abu Dhabi’s investments in Manchester City, which has taken the club to historic success.
Qatar’s acquisition of Paris St Germain in 2011 has helped to elevate the French club to one of the leading in Europe.
Staveley, the financier who is leading the talks, was previously involved in the deal that led to Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed’s takeover of Manchester City in 2010. She was also involved in an unsuccessful bid to buy the Newcastle club in late 2017. Her company is expected to buy 10% of Newcastle in the proposed deal.
Saudi Arabia has previously shown an interest in buying Manchester United and Chelsea, but ultimately deemed both clubs as being too costly.