Numerous consortia in Newcastle takeover talks

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The Independent Football

Five different consortia are competing to complete a takeover at Newcastle, Press Association Sport understands.

Tyneside businessman Barry Moat is one of the interested parties, and the preferred bidder of investment bankers Seymour Pierce, who were engaged by owner Mike Ashley to find a buyer back in May.

However, four other groups, all understood to be based overseas - one of them in South Africa - are also currently engaged in dialogue with the hierarchy at St James' Park.

In each case the interest is long-standing, and the resolution of former manager Kevin Keegan's case for constructive dismissal last week has opened the way for a deal to be struck.

Keegan's legal team, of course, were seeking a total of more than £25million in damages and an award of that magnitude would have had serious financial consequences for the Magpies and any future owner.

But the club were eventually ordered to pay the 58-year-old £2million, a sum that is manageable within the vastly-reduced budget upon which they are operating in the wake of relegation from the Barclays Premier League.

However, while the removal of a major obstacle to any sale has opened the way for significant progress in the takeover saga, there is still some way to go before a deal can be pushed through.

Ashley is still keen to sell but Newcastle's positive start to the season on the field has slightly reduced the urgency to do so.

The sportswear magnate has insisted from the off he wants £100million for the club and that price remains non-negotiable despite speculation some would-be owners believe they can gain control for less.

In addition, Ashley wants the successful candidates to prove they have the cash up front to complete a buy-out, something none of the five have done as yet.

But sources on Tyneside insist, as they have done from the start, no timescale has been imposed on the ongoing discussions and it is simply a matter of who is first past the post.

Newcastle are, of course, a much leaner outfit than they were a few months ago, although that is the result of necessity rather than prudence in the wake of a massive reduction in revenue following the drop from the top flight.

Many members of last season's squad - the likes of Michael Owen, Mark Viduka, Obafemi Martins, Sebastien Bassong, Damien Duff, Habib Beye and Claudio Cacapa - have departed and the annual wage bill has fallen from £74million to around half that figure.

Against the odds, the Magpies still led the Championship table by three points going into the break for international matches and, if they manage to sustain that level of performance and climb back into the big time, their income would increase dramatically once again.

However, so too would their need to buy, with the current squad short on numbers and much weaker in terms of quality than the one that slipped out of the division in May, and that would call for major investment from whoever was in the boardroom at the time.