By Paul Nicholson
June 18 – The takeover of Newcastle United by a consortium led by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) looks in doubt after a senior government minister cast doubt on the legality of the takeover following the WTO ruling that the Saudi’s broke international copyright with their support of the beoutQ pirate broadcaster.
But United fans desperate for an end to the Mike Ashley era need not despair yet as a US investor looks ready to step in.
Speaking on Sky News earlier today, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab appeared to signal a potential u-turn by government on the Saudi Arabian bid; saying it would be applying several legal takeover safeguards. Previously Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said that the deal was a matter for the Premier League.
“There’s a proper process that we have got in place, to look at everything from the competition aspects of it, to other questions of propriety, I think it’s right that that legal due process, with all the safeguards that it’s got in place, is followed and we have this debate about takeovers in this country, I think we should follow the rule of law,” said Raab.
According to the World Trade Organisation’s report released on Tuesday, there is clear evidence that the Saudi have not followed the international rule of law.
Stephen Nathan QC of Blackstone Chambers is unequivocal in his view that the takeover will fail because of the Saudi Government’s illegal conduct.
“There is overwhelming evidence establishing that the Government of Saudi Arabia owns and controls the Public Investment Fund (the“PIF”), which is currently proposing to acquire an 80% interest in Newcastle United Football Club (“NUFC”),” he says.
“Due to the fact that the Government of Saudi Arabia would become the ultimate beneficial owner of that 80% interest in NUFC and at the same time has actively supported the notorious beoutQ broadcast piracy, the Premier League’s Board must, pursuant to its Owners’ and Directors’ Test, reject the PIF’s takeover bid for NUFC.”
Ashley has already received a non-refundable £17 million deposit from the Saudis.
That money could well look like a windfall for Ashley if the Saudi bid is outlawed and the way cleared for US businessman Henry Mauriss to take pole position with his last minute £350 million bid.
Mauriss’s bid is reportedly treated sceptically by Ashley because it is £50 million more than the Saudis were paying. Ashley has had a number of false dawns with US buyers who wanted the club but couldn’t come up with the money.
Mauriss is based in Los Angeles and is CEO of Clear TV which operates a portfolio of television channels servicing airports, hospitals and social media outlets. His exact net worth is unclear but earlier in his career reports say he established a credit card company, Credit America Corporation.
If Mauriss can takeover where the Saudis now look likely to leave off it would be a relief for the Premier League in its dealings with Qatari broadcast buyer beIN Sports, as well as saving face in light of its attempted legal wrangling with the Saudi’s over the broadcast theft.
The WTO report verified that the beoutQ pirate broadcast operation has stolen the commercial rights of UK sport and UK clubs for three years; and ruled that the Government of Saudi Arabia blocked nine attempts by the Premier League to take action through Saudi courts.
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