May 28 – The on-off sales saga of Newcastle United is back in the news with the club having confirmed it is in discussion with UAE royal Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nahyan over what is now, reportedly, a £350 million deal.
Earlier this year Newcastle owner Mike Ashley abruptly ended talks with a group led by former Chelsea CEO Peter Kenyon after the buyers failed to come up with proof of finance – then reckoned to be £280 million to secure the club.
Before Kenyon, businesswoman Amanda Staveley made a number of offers for the club but none reaching Ashley’s asking price.
For Ashley, who is keen to sell the club but not desperate to, the issue has always been whether the buyer has the funds. If the money is visible and deal terms are signed then he will sell.
That will not be an issue for Sheikh Khaled who reportedly had a $1.5 billion offer for Liverpool turned down last year. What will likely be more of an issue is the internal politics of the UAE.
Dubai-based Sheikh Khaled is a cousin of Manchester City owner, Sheikh Mansour, and while a member of the ruling Royal family in the UAE, does not hold an equal position in the family hierarchy.
The news from the Gulf is that the deal terms have been agreed, and that the sale could happen quickly. If so, then it would counter the long-held belief that two members of the same royal family would buy competing clubs in a top European league.
Under Ashley’s generally frugal management of the business and Rafa Benitez’s team management, the club comfortably secured its Premier League status for next season. Benitez’s contract is up for renewal and he is regarded as crucial for continuity, having secured stability after the club’s return to the top flight two seasons ago.
Newcastle fans have long wanted and waited for Ashley’s exit from the club. There is no certainty that the wait is over.
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