Mike Ashley '100 per cent committed' to Saudi-based takeover of Newcastle

Saudi Arabia's public investment fund (PIF) had been set to take an 80 per cent stake in club under the terms of the deal, understood to be worth just over £300m

General view inside St. James' Park prior to Newcastle United vs West Ham on July 05, 2020 2:02
Keith Downie has the latest on Newcastle's proposed takeover by a Saudi-backed consortium

Owner Mike Ashley remains "100 per cent committed" to the Saudi-based takeover of Newcastle United, despite the deal's collapse earlier this week.

On Thursday, Sky Sports News revealed Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers had all withdrawn from the process to buy the Tyneside club.

However, Newcastle's managing director Lee Charnley said "never say never" as he reiterated Ashley's drive to sell to PIF, which had been set to purchase an 80 per cent stake, understood to be worth just over £300m.

preview image 1:10
Former Newcastle defender Steve Howey says the club's fans want answers after the Saudi-backed consortium's attempt to buy the club failed

"We acknowledge the statement issued on Thursday. Never say never but to be clear Mike Ashley is 100 per cent committed to this deal [sale]," Charnley said.

"However our current focus must now be on supporting Steve Bruce in the transfer market and on the preparations for the new season."

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The investment group decided to end their interest by citing the worldwide uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the 'prolonged process' they found themselves involved in.

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It is understood the Premier League, which was conducting its owners' and directors' test on the bidders, had concerns the Saudi Public Investment Fund was too closely linked to the kingdom's rulers.

Mike Ashley pictured with Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley at St Mary's Stadium in 2018
Image: Mike Ashley pictured with Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley

Human rights advocates Amnesty International had asked the Premier League to block the Saudi-backed bid.

In the wake of its collapse, Amnesty's Stephen Cockburn said: "I was always very uneasy about Saudi Arabia being that owner - and actually using Newcastle as a sort of tool in their PR effort to try and change the conversation from some pretty appalling human rights abuses."

Staveley 'heartbroken' after collapse of takeover

Amanda Staveley was part of a consortium proposing to takeover Newcastle United
Image: Amanda Staveley was part of a consortium proposing to take over Newcastle United

Amanda Staveley, whose firm PCP Capital Partners were at the centre of the takeover bid, described herself as "heartbroken" in an interview with the Times newspaper, following the collapse of the deal.

She was critical of the Premier League for not approving the takeover and blamed other clubs for opposing it.

Asked if the Saudi-backed consortium blamed the Premier League for the collapse of the deal, she replied: "Of course we do. They had a chance, they say we have not answered all the questions and we have done so.

"But the other clubs in the Premier League didn't want it to happen.

"We are so heartbroken for the Newcastle fans as the investment that was going to go into the club, especially with everything happening with Brexit and Covid, would have been so important. This is catastrophic for them.

"It has been going on for so long and the opportunity was there."

St James' Park - the home of Newcastle Utd 0:53
Following the collapse of a proposed Saudi Arabian-led takeover of Newcastle, Stephen Cockburn of Amnesty International says he was concerned the regime would use the club 'to try and change the conversation from appalling human rights abuse'

'Newcastle making it clear club still up for sale'

Sky Sports News' Keith Downie:

"This is the first time Newcastle have spoken on the record since the £300m deal was agreed between the Saudi-backed consortium and Mike Ashley way back in April.

"We have been met with a wall of silence - from the club and the Premier League - since then but the club have now released a short statement.

"They are making it clear that, as far as they are concerned, the club is still very much up for sale and there for the consortium should they be able to pass the Premier League's Owners' and Directors' Test.

"Ashley still wants to sell the club, let me tell you that. There's a misconception that he does not but he feels his time is up and as much as Newcastle supporters feel they are back to square one, Ashley is as well.

"We brought the news to you three or four weeks ago that American millionaire Henry Mauriss had launched a bid to buy the club. There are still a few question marks as to how real his offer is; it's my understanding he does want to buy the club. We'll have to wait and see.

"But the fans wanted to say they were the richest club in the world and could attract the best players. Anything else will not feel the same.

"It's my understanding Steve Bruce will be given some money to spend. Will it be as much as last season before the pandemic? Probably not."

What will Newcastle do in the transfer market?

Steve Bruce, Manager of Newcastle United looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at Etihad Stadium on July 08, 2020 in Manchester, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors.
Image: Steve Bruce is hoping to sign a new striker this summer

Ashley must now shift his focus to ensuring Newcastle are prepared for the beginning of the 2020/21 Premier League season, which will kick off on September 12.

Newcastle finished 13th in the Premier League last season under Steve Bruce but failed to win any of their final six games.

Ashley splashed out last summer as Newcastle signed striker Brazilian Joelinton from Hoffenheim for £40m and French winger Allan Saint-Maximin from Nice for £20m.

While Saint-Maximin quickly established himself as an impact player, Joelinton struggled in his first season in England with just two goals and two assists in 38 Premier League appearances.

Newcastle are in the market for a new striker this summer and Bruce also wants a left centre-back - with both costing up to £20m. The club is also targeting a young central midfielder, a left-back and a winger.

Newcastle are interested in signing striker Callum Wilson and winger David Brooks from relegated Bournemouth but face competition from a number of Premier Leagues clubs for both.

Speaking about Newcastle's recruitment plans prior to the collapse of the takeover, Bruce said: "We've got one or two irons in the fire right now - let's hope we can pull them off. We've got competition, but I think that will be the case right through the summer.

"As soon as the window opens, we'll go to work. Things are not on hold. We need that decision [over the takeover] to be made, but the only thing I can do, along with Lee [Charnley, Newcastle's managing director] is to keep planning as best we can, and that obviously includes the transfer market."

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