Saturday 7 December 2019

Mike Ashley: No plans to sell Newcastle before the end of the 2015/16 season

Mike Ashley
Mike Ashley

Damian Spellman

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has insisted he has no plans to sell the club until the end of next season at the earliest.

The sportswear magnate moved on Friday to dismiss speculation that he is ready to sell up in order to buy Scottish club Rangers, in which he already has a nine per cent stake.

A club statement, which revealed that the Daily Telegraph has been banned by the club for a series of reports on the matter, said: "The truth is Mike Ashley remains committed to Newcastle United. For the avoidance of doubt, this means that for the remainder of this season and AT LEAST until the end of next season, Mike Ashley will not, under any circumstances, sell Newcastle United at any price."

The statement continues: "The club cannot be stronger in stating its position on this matter."

Rumours have mounted in recent weeks that Ashley was ready to take a controlling stake at Rangers and would sell Newcastle in order to do so with UEFA rules preventing the ownership of two clubs playing in its competitions by one man.

Neither is currently involved in European competition, but both have hopes of returning to that level of competition in the near future.

Newcastle has been formally offered for sale on two occasions during Ashley's seven-year-plus tenure to date, but on neither occasion has a buyer been able to come up with the necessary finance to complete a deal.

The billionaire paid a total of £134.4million for the club, to which he has since made interest-free loans of £129million.

Ashley, who has presided over a controversial restructuring of the business in recent years which has effectively made it self-sufficient, has been open to offers for much of the last six years while not actively looking to sell.

However, the prevailing economic climate did little to encourage prospective buyers and there are no active proposals on the table.

The announcement that the current owner is going nowhere, in the short-term at least, may not go down well with his critics amid another stormy period in the club's recent history.

Ashley has funded a sizeable summer recruitment drive, although much of it from the proceeds of the sales of Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy, but anger remains at a perceived lack of investment in the squad, and at his decision to strike a sponsorship deal with payday lender Wonga.

Renaming St James' Park the Sports Direct Arena and appointing Joe Kinnear as director of football still rankle too, although manager Alan Pardew is the man currently in the firing line after an indifferent start to the new season.

The Telegraph is not the first newspaper to be banned by Newcastle, who have also closed their doors to the Evening Chronicle, the Journal and the Sunday Sun following critical coverage.

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