Newcastle takeover: Sale of Premier League club off as Saudi Arabian group withdraw

The £300m proposed takeover is ‘no longer commercially viable’ after being lodged for approval with the Premier League for 17 weeks without resolution

Jack de Menezes
Sports News Correspondent
Thursday 30 July 2020 16:35 BST
Newcastle's Saudi Arabia takeover collapses

The proposed Saudi Arabian-led takeover of Newcastle United has collapsed after the commercial agreement with the club’s current owners expired.

A joint statement from the Saudi Public Investment Fund, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media consortium that had lodged the £300m takeover bid confirmed that they have withdrawn their offer due to the “unforeseeably prolonged process” to gain approval from the Premier League.

The takeover has been under consideration by the league for an astonishing 17 weeks without resolution, resulting in the agreement between the Investment Group and current Newcastle owner Mike Ashley lapsing and leaving no other choice than to abandon the agreement.

The statement read: “With a deep appreciation for the Newcastle community and the significance of its football club, we have come to the decision to withdraw our interest in acquiring Newcastle United Football Club.

“We do so with regret, as we were excited and fully committed to invest in the great city of Newcastle and believe we could have returned the club to the position of its history, tradition and fans’ merit.

“Ultimately, during the unforeseeably prolonged process, the commercial agreement between the Investment Group and the club’s owners expired and our investment thesis could not be sustained, particularly with no clarity as to the circumstances under which the next season will start and the new norms that will arise for matches, training and other activities.

“As often occurs with proposed investments in uncertain periods, time itself became an enemy of the transaction, particularly during this difficult phase marked by the many real challenges facing us all from Covid-19.”

The statement also issued a thank you to Newcastle supporters who had welcomed the takeover with ferocious adulation, having grown tired of Ashley’s reign in charge.

“We feel great compassion for the Newcastle United fans with whom we shared a great commitment to help,” it added.

“We would like to say that we truly appreciated your incredible expressions of support and your patience throughout this process. We are sorry it is not to be.

“Unfortunately the prolonged process under the current circumstances coupled with global uncertainty has rendered the potential investment no longer commercially viable.”

The development means that Ashley will remain in charge of the club when the new Premier League season begins on the weekend of 12 September, despite actively looking to sell the club and putting no further investment into the team this summer due to his expected departure.

Mike Ashley will remain Newcastle United owner for the start of the 2020/21 season
Mike Ashley will remain Newcastle United owner for the start of the 2020/21 season (Getty)

The Premier League has been coy on the Newcastle takeover due to their requirement to keep matters surrounding the Owners and Directors Test confidential, although chief executive Richard Masters did address the matter this week in a written response to Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, who leads the Football Supporters’ Federation’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for football supporters in Parliament and who is a lifelong Newcastle fan.

“I hope that you appreciate that while these matters are often subject to significant public discussion, at their heart are due processes required by UK Law and by the Premier League’s Owners and Directors Test, which cannot be conducted in public and on which we cannot comment whilst these processes are still ongoing,” Masters said in a letter dated 27 July.

“We are confident these processes go above and beyond that required by UK Company Law and they are applied with equal rigour to every single purchase of a Premier League club regardless of the owner or director.

“I do hope that we will have a resolution to this matter soon but cannot commit to a specific timeline at this stage.

“I can assure you that my public affairs team will look to keep you and your fellow MPs with an interest in Newcastle United across any financial decision as soon as that is made.”

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