Newcastle statement: "Never say never but to be clear Mike Ashley is 100% committed to this deal. However our current focus must now be on supporting Steve Bruce in the transfer market and on the preparations for the new season."
Friday 31 July 2020 10:12, UK
Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers have withdrawn from the process to buy Newcastle, Sky Sports News can exclusively reveal.
Papers regarding the proposed takeover were lodged with the Premier League in April and were still being scrutinised.
Saudi Arabia's public investment fund (PIF) had been set to take an 80 per cent stake in the Premier League club under the terms of the deal, which was understood to be worth just over £300m.
But the Investment Group have now decided to end their interest, citing the worldwide uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the 'prolonged process' they found themselves involved in.
A 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.
"Unfortunately, the prolonged process under the current circumstances coupled with global uncertainty has rendered the potential investment no longer commercially viable.
"To that end, we feel a responsibility to the fans to explain the lack of alternatives from an investment perspective.
"As an autonomous and purely commercial investor, our focus was on building long-term value for the club, its fans and the community as we remained committed to collaboration, practicality and proactivity through a difficult period of global uncertainty and significant challenges for the fans and the club.
"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."
A Newcastle statement issued on Friday by Lee Charnley, Newcastle managing director, on behalf of Mike Ashley read: "We acknowledge the statement issued on Thursday.
"Never say never but to be clear Mike Ashley is 100 [per committed to this deal. However our current focus must now be on supporting Steve Bruce in the transfer market and on the preparations for the new season."
The decision will be a blow to Newcastle fans, who hoped the planned takeover might lead to significant investment in the club - who finished 13th in the recently concluded Premier League season.
But, 24 years to the day that Newcastle famously signed all-time great Alan Shearer, the news for the club's supporters was not so positive this time.
The statement from the Investment Group added: "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.
"We feel great compassion for the Newcastle United fans, with whom we shared a great commitment to help Newcastle United harness its tremendous potential and build upon its impressive and historic legacy while working closely with the local community.
"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.
"We wish the team and everyone associated with it much good luck and success."
The end of the takeover bid leaves the North East club still in the hands of businessman Mike Ashley, who has long faced protests and opposition from the fans.
The bid had been criticised by human rights campaigners and Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK's Economics Affairs Programme Director, said: "This deal was always a blatant attempt by the government of Saudi Arabia to try to sportswash its abysmal human rights record by buying into the passion, prestige and pride of Tyneside football.
"The fact that this sportswashing bid has failed will be seen by human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia as a sign that their suffering has not been entirely overlooked."
Newcastle fans have expressed their frustration at the length of the Premier League's scrutiny of the bid and press criticism of the takeover.
The NUFC Supporters Trust said: "The supporters of Newcastle United have been treated with contempt by large parts of the football media and the Premier League during this failed takeover process.
"It's been made clear that we are the least important people in a decision which affects us the most. We need answers."
Sky Sports News have contacted the Premier League and are awaiting a response.
January 25 – Sky Sports News confirmed that Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund is in talks to buy Newcastle.
April 14 – Sources say PCP Capital Partners has agreed a deal to buy Newcastle with the price agreed close to £300m.
April 16 – PCP Capital Partners lodges paperwork with the Premier League with concerns over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record said to be unlikely to derail the deal.
April 21 – PCP Capital Partners pays a deposit and exchange contracts with Mike Ashley; Amnesty International raises concerns with the Premier League over the involvement of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
April 22 - beIN Sports urges the Premier League to block the sale of Newcastle to the Saudi-backed consortium.
April 24 – The Government is urged by Labour MPs to ‘take a role’ in the scrutinising the takeover.
April 29 – Mauricio Pochettino is reported as the new prospective owners’ number one choice as manager and are willing to pay him £19m.
May 12 – The Premier League refuses to comment on reports linking the Saudi-backed consortium with an illegal TV streaming service.
May 29 – Premier League chief executive Richard Masters says the league is not working to any specific time frame regarding the takeover.
June 16 – A World Trade Organisation report finds “prominent Saudi nationals” promoted illegal broadcasts, raising doubts of members of the consortium being able to pass the Premier League’s owners test.
June 17 – Newcastle receive a new takeover bid worth £350m from Henry Mauriss, the CEO of US TV company, Clear TV.
June 23 – Saudi Arabia announces a crackdown of websites illegally streaming sporting events to try and solve the key issue holding up the completion of the takeover.
July 28 – The UK Government distances itself from making any decisions regarding the takeover.
July 30 - Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers withdraw from the process to buy Newcastle.
Sky Sports News' Keith Downie:
"A lot of us were half expecting one of the two parties to pull out given the length of time this had gone on. A number of MPs wrote to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters asking for him to make a decision because it was affecting supporters' mental health, that's the state it had got to up in the North East.
"A high-level source at the club has revealed nobody at Newcastle United was aware at all this news was going to break, including the person handling the takeover affairs, Justin Barnes.
"We've had no confirmation from the Premier League whether the takeover would have passed or failed, I think we will never know, but, in many ways, the Saudi consortium pulling out has made the decision for them.
"Newcastle fans were dreaming of the takeover, they were attached to it, they were living by it and desperate for it to happen, so this is the worst news they could have had.
"There will be those asking if the takeover is definitely off? Without a willing buyer and seller, this isn't going to happen. And sadly for the Newcastle supporters, that willing buyer has just pulled out."
Sky Sports News' Kaveh Solhekol:
"If this takeover had gone through, Newcastle would have become the richest club in the Premier League. When you look at the Saudis' wealth, they would have been 15 times richer than Man City, for example. The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is worth 30 times more than Roman Abramovich.
"But the proposed takeover has been fraught with problems and difficulties from day one. It was not a football deal. It was almost a country buying a football club and it was Saudi Arabia, who have some controversial laws and a poor record - by Western standards - when it comes to human rights. The other big issue was piracy.
"The paperwork was lodged with the Premier League around 16 weeks ago but they had still not given the go-ahead. It appears the consortium ran out of patience."
Former Newcastle defender Steve Howey, speaking on Sky Sports News:
"It's devastating. The fans, everyone concerned with Newcastle - the whole city - was hoping for this to go through.
"Mike Ashley's tenure hasn't been a happy one. Newcastle fans have been through this before but I think people got behind this one and thought it would happen. Doubt does come into your mind when it lingers on but I was still optimistic that it would go through.
"My heart sunk. It's devastating for the fans, who had the cans ready to celebrate. This will cut very deep. Everyone had such great hopes about where the club might go and who they might buy.
"There's six weeks until the season starts; how much will Mike Ashley invest? A lot of fans will think not a lot, if anything.
"Under the current regime, Newcastle have unfortunately found themselves in a position where the aim is to survive. I think Steve Bruce has done an amazing job, considering. But I worry for the club now."