Newcastle deny link to Ambani but takeover talk continues

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The Independent Football

There is fresh speculation surrounding the future ownership of Newcastle United, with the Indian billionaire Anil Ambani reported to have been in discussions "for several weeks" with the current owner, Mike Ashley, over the sale of the club for between £260m and £300m.

Newcastle denied the report had any foundation, as they have with similar ones recently, but wittingly or not it was Ashley who lent credence to such stories when speaking of wanting new investment at the announcement of interim results of his core business, Sports Direct.

On 10 July Ashley stated that Newcastle was not for "outright" sale but said that he was "keen to have partners – if we had some multibillionaire that wanted a stake in Newcastle, it will help."

Ambani, whose personal wealth was valued at $24.6bn (£13.2bn) in a recent American survey, fulfils Ashley's criteria. His principal company is Reliance Communications, whose main business is telecommunications. Co-incidentally, Reliance Asset Management, Ambani's fund management subsidiary, was given permission by the Financial Services Authority last month to open an office in the City of London. It is known as Emergent India.

Engaged in a high-profile feud with his brother over the businesses they inherited from their father, Anil Ambani does not sound as if he would be interested in Ashley's concept of partnership. If yesterday's report is correct, then gaining full control of Newcastle would surely be the ambition.

Ashley, who has spent around £250m buying Newcastle and wiping out inherited debt, also said last month that QPR, owned by a trio of super-rich individuals, is a model that interests him.

"[Roman] Abramovich has unfortunately got however tens of billions more than me," Ashley said. "That lot from QPR ... have got tens and tens of billions more than Newcastle. It would be very useful if we could get some multibillionaire partners. The QPR model looks very interesting, it's something that Newcastle needs to look at. It's got to be able to compete."

Shortly before Ashley spoke last month, Newcastle also denied being in talks with the New York firm InterMedia Partners, but a senior figure said then that while there had been no direct negotiations, "third-party contact" could not be discounted. "At any time there are companies in the world who are prepared to let you see their financials [books]," the source said

Newcastle can counter that there is no proof of any contact in these reports and they again denied discussions with the Profitable Group, based in Singapore, which was also linked yesterday to a possible purchase.