Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) will take a controlling 80 per cent stake in Newcastle in takeover deal worth £300m; What next for Steve Bruce, Mike Ashley and what does it mean for Newcastle going forward?
Friday 8 October 2021 14:26, UK
A Saudi-led consortium has completed their takeover of Newcastle United, bringing Mike Ashley's 14-year ownership of the club to an end, but what does it mean going forward?
The takeover involves Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) taking a controlling 80 per cent stake in the club, with the purchasing consortium led by Amanda Staveley.
The deal to buy Newcastle has been fraught with controversy and obstacles since Staveley and her party registered an interest in acquiring the club four years ago.
That process has now come to an end and the takeover is complete - but how did we get here now and what does it mean for Newcastle going forward?
Diplomatic disputes in the Gulf, objections based on Saudi Arabia's human rights record and Premier League ownership concerns have all been issues on the journey to this point.
Sky Sports News reporter Keith Downie explains how and why Newcastle have become one of the richest football clubs on the planet...
The PIF now owns an 80 per cent share of Newcastle - and they are worth an eye-watering £700bn.
For context, the previous richest club in the Premier League was Manchester City, whose owners are worth £23bn.
While it is important to note that it is the PIF worth £700bn and not the club, that figure - 22-times greater than City's worth - gives an indication of the spending power of Newcastle's new owners.
Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Governor of PIF, will serve as non-executive chairman of Newcastle United. Amanda Staveley, chief executive of PCP Capital Partners, will have one seat on the board, while Jamie Reuben will also be a director of the club, representing RB Sports & Media.
Staveley owns 10 per cent and the other 10 per cent is owned by the Reuben brothers, who own 16 race courses in the UK, with their wealth estimated at £21.5bn in the latest Sunday Times rich list.
Plans are now in place to increase revenue streams into the club which will help them better deal with Financial Fair Play rules and what they have to spend.
The big thing has been the agreement struck on Tuesday between beIN Sports and Saudi Arabia over illegal streaming of Premier League matches in the Gulf State. That was the major obstacle in the takeover going through and it has now been ironed out.
Three things were holding it up in this regard.
As part of a diplomatic dispute, beIN, which is a Qatari company, has been banned from broadcasting in Saudi Arabia for the last four-and-a-half years. Since news of the potential takeover first appeared beIN Sports wanted the ban of their coverage in Saudi Arabia to be reversed.
As part of this, beIN launched an international arbitration case against Saudi Arabia, seeking damages of $1billion due to their refusal to show Premier League matches in the country.
They also wanted the pirating of football through illegal streams in Saudi Arabia - set up on beoutQ - to be turned off.
However, the Saudis approached beIN Sports to end their legal cases recently and the broadcasting company is no longer banned in Saudi Arabia. All these issues have been ironed out.
After that it was up to the Premier League to ascertain separation between the PIF-backed consortium which is looking to buy Newcastle and the Saudi state.
Amanda Staveley will be the face of Newcastle. She will be the one to have her feet under the desk at the club, so to speak.
The Premier League and the consortium will have to thrash out ownership issues between them and how that is agreed but the make-up of the consortium will look slightly different to how it first appeared at the start of the takeover talks.
But, make no mistake, to get to this stage the Premier League had to be satisfied that the club will not be state-owned as that is the issue the governing body has been adamant about from the start - there must be a separation between Newcastle ownership and the Saudi state.
I have spoken to some fans who are concerned about this. It is certainly something the fans should be aware of. However, a recent Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) survey showed that 93.8 per cent of fans wanted the takeover to be given approval.
That doesn't mean there aren't concerns about human rights issues but the fans are so desperate for change after various protests and frustrations during the Mike Ashley era.
The supporters here are so passionate, it is bordering on religion - they have been desperate for change for some time now and the vast majority I have spoken to are just keen to see their team improve on the pitch.
Those who didn't want the takeover to go through was precisely because of the issue of human rights. I asked Staveley about this and she said there is clear separation and that it shouldn't be a concern for the consortium moving forward.
Newcastle's LGBTQ+ inclusive supporters group are hoping the takeover could have a positive impact in the Middle East state.
United with Pride said in a statement: "We acknowledge that Saudi Arabia as a country is one of the least tolerant for LGBTQ+ and gender rights anywhere in the World and Amnesty International are right to continue to highlight these issues in the National and International media.
"However, the engagement and investment in international business and sport... could be viewed as an opportunity for decision-makers in Saudi Arabia to witness how other cultures treat their minority groups. There is potential to be a positive influence to improving the conditions for the LGBTQ+ community in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere."
The statement continued: ""We look to the example of Manchester City as to why we anticipate this will be the case. Manchester City has a long-established healthy engagement with the community, especially in the development of women's participation and the visibility of their LGBTQ+ fan's group 'Canal Street Blues'.
"This indicates that the culture of the country of origin of the owners and investors does not necessarily reflect the ethos of the football club."
I would be surprised if there was not a new man in the hot seat in time for Spurs a week on Sunday.
Whether that is someone already at the club like Graeme Jones, who arrived at the club separate to the rest of Bruce's backroom staff, there is a chance it could be him.
Perhaps they have someone in mind already if they don't get him. I do not believe they have someone in mind already, but it would be very unlikely Bruce will still be in charge for that game.
I just do not believe he is the look they are going for after everything that has gone on in the last 24 hours. So they may bring in someone temporarily while they get the ball rolling like Jones, or they may make a quick appointment.
And when I spoke to Bruce last night, he already seem resigned to his fate. Right now it is difficult to speculate in terms of names of who the consortium could look at to take over in the longer term.
They were keen to bring Rafa Benitez back to St James' Park previously but he is at Everton now and I would be shocked if he returned to Newcastle.
Having said that the club will have a lot more money to spend and the Spaniard is not getting a lot of that at Goodison just now. However, I think the new board will now look elsewhere.
He was previously linked with moves to take over Ipswich and Birmingham and I wouldn't be surprised to see him come back at a smaller club further down the pyramid - he sees it as a vehicle for advertising for his other business interests.
Ashley will say he has had his fingers burnt in some aspects of being involved in the ownership of a football club but I wouldn't be surprised to see him return somewhere else in a similar capacity.
Staveley knows she's got a huge job both on and off the pitch. She eluded to that in her interview with Sky Sports. Especially when you consider the clubs that have overtaken Newcastle during Mike Ashley's reign.
Leicester is the one shining example. Newcastle were probably on a par with Tottenham before Ashley took over, West Ham. Leicester had a good training ground as it was and they've now moved into a new purpose-built one.
The one Newcastle currently have isn't fit for a Premier League club but maybe one lower down in the Championship or League One. Work needs to be done there.
I'm told Staveley will visit the training ground and the stadium on Friday to have a look around and see how much they need to spend. The stadium needs to be upgraded. This is a long process that won't happen overnight.
However, when you look back at what happened at Manchester City, there were developments which shot up out of nowhere. Staveley knows she has to get to work quickly.
On the pitch, Newcastle are in a precarious position so it's imperative that gets sorted out.
Club legends Alan Shearer and Kevin Keegan are both set to be offered roles at the club as ambassadors. Both were jettisoned under Ashley.
They are very wealthy - it is the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Saudi Arabia having an 80 per cent stake in Newcastle. It is big money and they have got a lot of money to spend.
They are obviously going to be guided by Financial Fair Play. The information we have been told all along since they came to the table two or three years ago was that they were going to do this gradually.
They are not going to throw money at it straight away. They want to invest gradually in the months and years ahead. There is a lot that needs improving at this football club - the infrastructure, the stadium, the academy - all of these need investment and I think that will be one of their priorities.
One of their other priorities will be to keep Newcastle in the Premier League this season. Without that the takeover would've been off. They need Newcastle in the Premier League.
I do expect them to spend money in the January transfer window, this will give them enough time to assess the squad and see what they want to do. They need to make a decision on the manager as well. They are not going to throw hundreds of millions of pounds at it straight away, it is going to be gradual, they want to do it properly, that has been the plan all along.
They want to put money into the academy and the training ground. Rafa Benitez had been desperate to see both of these upgraded during his time at the club but never got his wish.
The consortium is also keen to invest money into the stadium, for renovation work and upgrades.
They also want to invest in the surrounding area, as well as the infrastructure of the club. They are keen to put money into the city and oversee a redevelopment of the area close by similar to that undertaken by Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour in the east of Manchester.