Newcastle admit approach from US hedge fund

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Newcastle yesterday confirmed they have received an approach regarding a possible takeover from the US hedge fund Polygon amid increasing speculation about a possible sale.

The club issued a statement to the Stock Exchange confirming that St James' Park Group Limited, a consortium backed by Polygon Global Opportunities Master Fund, are one of the groups interested in purchasing the club.

The Newcastle chairman, Freddy Shepherd, informed the company's members of the development during Tuesday's annual general meeting, and yesterday's announcement formalises that in line with Stock Exchange regulations.

The statement read: "The board of Newcastle notes the press comment following yesterday's AGM and confirms that St James' Park Group Limited [a consortium backed by Polygon Global Opportunities Master Fund] is one of the parties that has made an approach to the board of Newcastle regarding a possible offer for Newcastle.

"The board wishes to reiterate that it has not accepted any proposals for the company from any party nor is any due diligence being conducted on the company. Therefore, there can be no certainty that an offer will be made, nor as to the terms on which any offer would be made. A further statement will be made as appropriate."

Polygon have held a long-term interest in Newcastle, and a report last week stated they had made and had approved a £227m offer for the club in conjunction with the United Bank of Switzerland. Shepherd was swift to deny that, and reaffirmed this at yesterday's meeting.

A bullish chairman also again challenged potential investors - the club revealed talks with the Jersey-based investment group Belgravia back in August - to "put up or shut up" after months of rumours.

The former chairman Sir John Hall, his son Douglas and Shepherd are the three major shareholders, between them controlling stakes amounting to around 70 per cent. However, while the Halls appear to be keen to sell out, the man who took over at the helm nine years ago has given prospective buyers less encouragement.

Shepherd has previously admitted he could happily walk away if the club finally ended its 37-year search for a major trophy - this season's Intertoto Cup will not fulfil that requirement - and insists he would welcome a "Geordie Abramovich" with open arms. But a man who has ploughed millions into the club he supported as a boy retains great affection for it and for his hands-on, day-to-day involvement, which could prove difficult to relinquish.

The Belgravia Group maintain that their interest remains, despite playing down talk of an imminent bid last month, and confirmation of Polygon's approach will do little to calm speculation.

Fans are also growing weary of the reported interest from the various parties, and Frank Gilmour, of the Independent Newcastle United Supporters' Association, called for a decisive move one way or the other.

Gilmour said: "It has been going on that long, you wonder if there is any truth in it. If they are going to make a bid, make it now or just leave it alone. All the speculation just affects the club.

"A lot of supporters would be happy to see the Halls disappear, but all the uncertainty is bound to affect the manager and the playing staff. The supporters will just go on exactly as they have done for years and years, just wanting somebody decent to come in and make the club successful."

Gilmour's disquiet with the regime stems from the infamous scandal in which Shepherd and Hall Junior were entrapped in a tabloid sting in which they made insulting comments about, among others, the club's fans. "I have never forgiven them for those comments," Gilmour said