Jersey Group put on pressure in Newcastle battle

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Belgravia Group yesterday attempted to raise the stakes in its pursuit of Newcastle. The Jersey-based group, which has been in talks over a potential takeover at St James' Park for several months, suggested it would like to be in control ahead of the January transfer window, and implied that that could lead to a major investment in players.

However, with the chairman, Freddy Shepherd, still showing no sign of wanting to sell his stake and irritated at Belgravia's tactics - he recently challenged them to "put up or shut up" - the prospect of that happening remains remote. Both parties confirmed to the Stock Exchange earlier this year that discussions that may or may not lead to an offer were under way, although none has yet been made.

Belgravia's stance yesterday remained as it has been, although the mention of the transfer window suggested a time-frame.

A spokesman told BBC Sport: "We are still in talks which may or may not lead to a deal, but we are still very keen to do a deal. The transfer window is approaching and I think from both parties' perspective, that is something to focus the minds."

Belgravia, like the US hedge fund Polygon, is understood to have held talks with the former chairman Sir John Hall over his 28.5 per cent holding, and Sir John's son, Douglas, who controls a further 14 per cent. However, Shepherd has gradually increased his stake to approaching 29 per cent, just under the 30 per cent threshold at which he would have to make an offer for the remaining shares.

Belgravia has signalled its intention to assume full control, and with Shepherd seeming unwilling to relinquish control, its interest could materialise into little else. The chairman came under pressure from fans after the 1-0 home defeat by Sheffield United. He vowed then to fight on and nothing that has happened since appears to have changed his mind. Suggestions that a £235m takeover was imminent were inaccurate and the situation, apparently, remains unchanged.

"It would be premature and disrespectful to the fans to talk about what we may or may not want to do as we don't own it," the Belgravia spokesman said.

"Were we to make an offer, you have to disclose what financing plans are and what you are going to do, and at that point, we will outline in detail what our plans for the club would be."

Comments