Newcastle takeover confirmed as Saudi-backed bid ousts Mike Ashley

The Premier League said it had received ‘legally binding assurances’ that the Saudi state would not control the club

Alex Pattle
Friday 08 October 2021 02:10
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<p>Newcastle United has been sold to a Saudi-led consortium</p>

Newcastle United has been sold to a Saudi-led consortium

The takeover of Newcastle United is complete after a consortium, heavily backed by Saudi Arabia, ousted the retail tycoon Mike Ashley on Thursday.

The new owners, celebrated by fans in the city but criticised by human rights groups, have vowed to “create a consistently successful team that’s regularly competing for major trophies”.

The deal was completed following approval from the Premier League, after assurances that the Saudi state would not have control of the club. In a statement confirming the deal, the Premier League said: “[It] has now received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club.”

The kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), which has provided 80 per cent of funds for the £305m takeover, has been deemed separate from the Saudi state, allowing the takeover to pass the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test. However, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, is listed as chair of PIF.

The PIF’s chances were seemingly boosted this week when Saudi Arabia settled an alleged piracy dispute with beIN Sports, a Qatar-based broadcaster that owns rights to air Premier League games in the Middle East.

While the Amanda Staveley-led consortium is 80 per cent financed by Saudi Arabia’s PIF, the other 20 per cent is split equally between Ms Staveley’s company and the finance and investment company Reuben Brothers.

The group walked away from the transaction last year when the Premier League asked for clarification about who would have control of the club.

Sports Direct CEO Mr Ashley instituted arbitration proceedings that are scheduled to take place early next year. Mr Ashley bought Newcastle for £134m in May 2007 and put the club up for sale again in October 2017.

A Premier League statement read: “The Premier League, Newcastle United Football Club and St James Holdings Limited have today settled the dispute over the takeover of the club by the consortium of PIF, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media. Following the completion of the Premier League’s Owners’ and Directors’ Test, the club has been sold to the consortium with immediate effect.

“The legal disputes concerned which entities would own and/or have the ability to control the club following the takeover. All parties have agreed the settlement is necessary to end the long uncertainty for fans over the club’s ownership. The Premier League has now received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club.

“All parties are pleased to have concluded this process which gives certainty and clarity to Newcastle United Football Club and their fans.”

A statement by the consortium said there were plans for a “clear, long-term strategy” at Newcastle. The PIF’s governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan will be a non-executive director of the club, while Ms Staveley will have a seat on the board and Jamie Reuben will also be a director.

Mr Rumayyan said: “We are extremely proud to become the new owners of Newcastle United, one of the most famous clubs in English football. We thank the Newcastle fans for their tremendously loyal support over the years and we are excited to work together with them.”

Ms Staveley added: “This is a long-term investment. We are excited about the future prospects for Newcastle United. We intend to instill a united philosophy across the Club, establish a clear purpose, and help provide leadership that will allow Newcastle United to go on to big achievements over the long-term.

“Our ambition is aligned with the fans – to create a consistently successful team that’s regularly competing for major trophies and generates pride across the globe.”

The club is 19th in the Premier League table and without a win after seven games this season. Newcastle is in desperate need of investment – it has not won a major trophy since the 1955 FA Cup and its last league title was in 1927.

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