Newcastle set for foreign ownership

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The Independent Football

Newcastle's new owner is almost certain to hail from overseas - and there is no indication yet from any interested party that Kevin Keegan's return to the club is central to their plans.

Those are the claims of Keith Harris, the man charged with identifying the right buyer to succeed Mike Ashley as owner at St James' Park.

The Seymour Pierce chairman was asked to broker a deal to sell the Magpies, after sportswear magnate Ashley put the Barclays Premier League club up for sale a month ago.

Harris today confirmed seven parties are still under consideration as prospective new owners - contrary to previous reports, none of those is from South Africa - and they have all yet to show their hand on the Keegan issue.

"I think it is certainly likely that the next owner of Newcastle will come away from these shores," said Harris, who claims much of the wealth and will to buy into English football is centred in either the Middle or Far East, or the USA.

He was, however, unwilling to pinpoint the location of the most significant players.

"Whether it is the Middle East is another matter," he told Sky Sports News.

"But it is a reasonable assumption to say the new owner will not be from Britain.

"We have had now, for seven or eight days, seven interested parties.

"They are not from these shores, and that is not surprising.

"Within that group, we have taken the chance to start honing down the list - so far nobody has dropped out."

As for the likelihood of Keegan - a huge crowd favourite on Tyneside - returning for another stint as manager, Harris remains unsure.

"Nobody has said to us that is a condition for us to go forward. Nobody has said, as a pre-condition, it is this manager or that manager," Harris said.

Keegan left the club last month after alleging board intrusion into transfers - and the shock appointment of Joe Kinnear was subsequently announced, in the role of interim manager.

"Joe Kinnear has done a pretty good job in the short period of time he has had," Harris said.

"Whoever is the new owner, it would be their choice of the management team on and off the field."

That owner appears highly unlikely to be South African.

Although Harris confirmed conversations have taken place with individuals from that country, he made it clear he is not expecting them to develop.

"We need to distinguish between interest and serious interest," he said.

"We have had people talk to us from those parts of the world - but we have not deemed it serious interest."

Harris also sought to clarify the reported valuation of Newcastle.

"£400m sounds like an exaggeration," he said.

Reacting to a Sky Sports News suggestion that £300m might be nearer the mark, he agreed: "That seems reasonable."