Friday 20 September 2019

Mike Ashley's reign at Newcastle could be over by Christmas

Mike Ashley has put Newcastle up for sale
Mike Ashley has put Newcastle up for sale

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley's turbulent decade-long reign could be over by Christmas after the club was officially put up for sale.

Ashley indicated several months ago that he would be open to doing a deal if a mega-rich investor emerged to take the Magpies to the next level financially, and speculation stepped up earlier this month when leading financier Amanda Staveley attended Newcastle's home game against Liverpool.

Now the 53-year-old has removed any ambiguity from the situation, effectively planting the 'for sale' signs on the St James' Park turf.

It is not known how much the 53-year-old wants for an asset he paid £134million for in 2007, with estimates running all the way from £200million-£400m, but he does appear to be a motivated seller.

Ashley has made it clear, via his legal representatives Dentons, he would be flexible on the fine detail of any successful offer, in terms of deal structure and payment schedule.

A statement from his company, St James' Holdings, read: "To give the club the best possible opportunity of securing the positioning and investment necessary to take it to the next level, at what is an important time in its history, its present ownership has determined that it is in the best interests of Newcastle United and its fans for the club to be put up for sale.

"As one of the Premier League's oldest and best supported football clubs - and for the benefit of its many fans and supporters in the UK and across the world - Newcastle United requires a clear direction and a path to a bright and successful future.

"To give an incoming owner the maximum possible flexibility to make meaningful investment in the club, including in its playing squad, the sale process will give interested parties the opportunity of deferring substantial payments.

"A process will now commence of identifying new ownership for the club that will be capable of delivering the sustained investment in and dedication to the club that is necessary for it to achieve its ambitions."

Despite clearing existing debts and securing the club's financial future when he arrived, the Sports Direct entrepreneur has had a rocky 10 years with Newcastle, including two relegations and frequent discord with supporters. He apologised over the summer for his treatment of several managers, including fan favourite Kevin Keegan, and admitted his brief rebranding of the stadium as the Sports Direct Arena was ill-judged.

Some of the favourite sons of Newcastle's recent past spoke with one voice at the news, with former players Alan Shearer, Rob Lee and Faustino Asprilla all sharing their joy on social media.

Shearer, the club's record scorer and briefly its interim manager under Ashley, tweeted: "Just heard...." accompanied by a gif featuring the cast of American sitcom Seinfeld joyously celebrating.

Lee and Asprilla both indicated their excitement through the medium of dance, Lee using another gif and the words "at last" while Asprilla filmed his own dance and commented: "The best news for @NUFC ever, it would be hard to find a worse owner than Mike Ashley for a team."

Andrew Henderson, a partner at Dentons, told Sky Sports News HQ: "Our intentions at the moment are to see if the club can be brought forward into new ownership by, potentially, Christmas.

"That would allow for a period for serious interested parties to put themselves forward, for a diligence process to carry on, and then hopefully by Christmas for a sale to conclude."

PA Media

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