Newcastle takeover: Premier League CEO Richard Masters breaks silence over Saudi-led deal

PM Boris Johnson had previously supported calls for the Premier League to make a statement concerning the failed takeover of the club.

General view inside St. James' Park prior to Newcastle United vs West Ham on July 05, 2020
Image: The future ownership of Newcastle United remains uncertain

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has responded to MP Chi Onwurah's plea for clarity over the Newcastle takeover.

It is the first time the governing body has commented publicly on the matter, after Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers pulled out of a protracted £300m takeover at the end of last month.

The consortium had criticised the "prolonged process" for their decision to walk away from the proposed deal.

The PIF - whose chairman is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the ruler of Saudi Arabia - had been set to take an 80 per cent stake in the Premier League club under the terms of the deal.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters 3:18
Keith Downie reports that Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has responded to a letter from MP Chi from Onwurah who asked for clarity over the potential takeover of Newcastle United.

In his letter to the Newcastle Central MP, Masters wrote: "I fully appreciate that the issue of a potential change in the ownership of Newcastle United Football Club (NUFC) is of great importance to you, as the MP for the area and as a fan, as it is to NUFC's entire fanbase, and I would like to deal directly with the questions you raise."

Onwura subsequently tweeted: "It acknowledges importance of fans & provides some new info but not the reassurance or transparency I know fans want."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously supported calls for the Premier League to make a statement concerning the failed takeover of the club.

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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

Masters confirmed after an impasse was reached in the league's owners' and directors' test, Amanda Staveley's consortium, under which Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) is seeking to buy an 80 per cent stake in the club, declined an offer of independent arbitration.

Borsi Johnson
Image: PM Boris Johnson had urged the Premier League to make a statement on the proposed takeover

He wrote: "In June, the Premier League board made a clear determination as to which entities it believed would have control over the club following the proposed acquisition, in accordance with the Premier League rules.

"Subsequently, the Premier League then asked each such person or entity to provide the Premier League with additional information, which would then have been used to consider the assessment of any possible disqualifying events.

Richard Masters
Image: Premier League CEO Richard Masters says their offer of independent arbitration with regard to the proposed takeover was declined

"In this matter, the consortium disagreed with the Premier League's determination that one entity would fall within the criteria requiring the provision of this information.

"The Premier League recognised this dispute, and offered the consortium the ability to have the matter determined by an independent arbitral tribunal if it wished to challenge the conclusion of the board.

"The consortium chose not to take up that offer, but nor did it procure the provision of the additional information. Later, it [or PIF specifically] voluntarily withdrew from the process."

Mike Ashley at Wembley Stadium in 2019 4:14
Sky Sports News has been told Mike Ashley remains in dialogue with the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund and its partners over the potential takeover of Newcastle.

In response, a source close to the Saudi-led consortium told Sky Sports News later on Friday the group provided written assurances from the highest possible government department, notably the Saudi Royal Court, that the Kingdom would have no influence over the running of Newcastle United.

They say it was impossible for them to offer any further detail about the independence of the consortium from the State.

The consortium attempting to take over Newcastle United were only offered arbitration on the single point regarding the question of how much influence the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would have on the day-to-day running of the football club.

The source added any suggestion the group were holding back information was "bizarre".

Mike Ashley at Wembley Stadium in 2019
Image: Mike Ashley remains the owner of Newcastle but he remains hopeful the Saudi-based takeover can still proceed

Masters' comments came after the consortium withdrew its bid for the club having waited in vain for the green light, although current owner Mike Ashley has insisted he remains committed to the deal 17 weeks after the matter went to the Premier League.

However, the league's chief executive also dismissed suggestions rival clubs had vetoed the deal.

He added: "The owners' and directors' test is delegated to and carried out entirely by the Premier League board. Other member clubs have no role whatsoever in the approval process."

The Premier League is also reviewing its owners' and directors' test in coming months "to ensure it remains robust and fair to all interested stakeholders".

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