Ashley to slash Newcastle price
Wednesday 01 October 2008
There is renewed speculation surrounding the price Mike Ashley expects to ask for Newcastle United given the global economic downturn and the fact that several of the interested parties are from overseas. According to reports a fortnight ago in the Middle East, Ashley was hoping for a figure in the region of £480m, but that seemed implausibly high at the time and a more realistic fee is something closer to £280m.
Even that would net Ashley a tidy profit on a company he first bought into in May of last year. Ashley paid £134m to acquire Newcastle and the former chairman Freddy Shepherd said last month that Ashley then immediately had to invest a further £57m to cover a clause in the contract regarding the rebuilding of St James' Park should Sir John Hall ever sell.
On top of that £191m Ashley is understood to have guaranteed loans outstanding from the previous regime. "I've already invested £250m in Newcastle United," Ashley told a club publication in August. "Apart from the purchase of the club and associated costs that come with that, I've put in a further £100m to reduce debts and expect no interest to be paid on that. Yet still we have the outstanding debt on the monies still owed on player transfers."
As two or three of the prospective buyers are being considered ahead of the others who may have expressed an interest, they can be expected to be given access to some of the financial details of Newcastle in the past 16 months. But full due diligence can take up to three months and Newcastle do not foresee a sale as imminent apparently. They would hardly divulge such sensitive information anyway.
What can be said is that the club looks less attractive than on 17 August when Kevin Keegan's tired players were on their way back from Old Trafford having secured a 1-1 draw with the European Champions.
One week later Bolton were beaten at St James' but Newcastle have not added to that points tally since then, the fans have turned angrily on Ashley for his treatment of Keegan and listened in disbelief when they were informed on Friday that Joe Kinnear was the new interim manager.
Ashley's asset is surely depreciating with every bad result but at least Kinnear had some upbeat news from the training ground yesterday when Jose Enrique reported fit for the trip to Everton on Sunday. Danny Guthrie will also be available then after suspension.
Kinnear also admitted that he was mystified at claims he had turned up on Monday for his first day in charge expecting to find the players – who had been given a day off – waiting for him.
Kinnear said: "What's all the fuss about? After Saturday's game, we all sat down and decided to give the players a day off on Monday for a variety of reasons.
"One is the fact that we are not playing until Sunday this week. And then it gave me the chance to go into the training ground yesterday and have a long chat with all my coaching and backroom staff. As a result, I knew all I had to know when the players came in today."
*The Everton midfielder Tim Cahill has failed with an appeal against the red card he received in Saturday's Merseyside derby, which means he will serve a three-match ban, starting with the Premier League game against Newcastle United on Sunday. Cahill was sent off for "serious foul play" by referee Mike Riley following a challenge on Xabi Alonso. Cahill will also miss the trip away to Arsenal on 18 October and the home match against Manchester United on 25 October after the FA confirmed that an independent regulatory commission had rejected his appeal.
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