Mike Ashley, the owner of Newcastle United, has officially confirmed that he is in the midst of a process to sell the club.
Ashley, who is also the founder of Sports Direct, been open to offers for the Premier League club since the turn of this year, but had only instructed St James’ Park officials to issue a public statement clarifying his intentions on Monday.
While it was understood that Ashley desires to recoup the £380m for the concern he bought 10 years ago, the 53-year old also makes it clear that he would accept staggered payments and wants a clean break rather than a partnership with new investors.
In a statement by Andrew Henderson — a lawyer representing Ashley — Newcastle United are currently in talks “with new and credible parties” after his client put the Premier League club up for sale.
“Our intentions are to see if the club can be bought by new ownership, potentially by Christmas,” said Henderson. “This would allow seriously interested parties to put themselves forward.”
“It would allow a diligence period to carry on, then hopefully by Christmas a sale could be concluded.”
“Since Monday, a number of additional parties have come forward which we believe to be credible,” Henderson added. “We are continuing to engage in conversation with a number of parties with whom we were engaged in negotiations prior to Monday’s announcement.”
Amongst the frontrunners for a bid to Newcastle’s ownership rights include Amanda Staveley, whose Dubai-based private equity firm, PCP Capital Partners, handles vast amounts of Middle Eastern oil wealth, and who had recently been spotted in Newcastle’s home draw with Liverpool.
However, it also appears clear that while Ashley’s announcement had accelerated the possibility of a transition of owners, it is understood that the key issue of price has still to be discussed. Staveley is thought to have valued the club in the region of £300m — a sum significantly less than Ashley’s own valuation, which could delay the completion of a deal up to after Christmas.