Mau­riss could be owner in time for next sea­son

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Football - By Luke Ed­wards

New­cas­tle United could still have a new owner be­fore the start of next sea­son as Henry Mau­riss, an Amer­i­can busi­ness­man, be­lieves he is now in pole po­si­tion to buy the club af­ter a pro­posed takeover by a Saudi Ara­bian-led con­sor­tium col­lapsed.

The Daily Tele­graph un­der­stands that Mau­riss has been con­fi­dent for sev­eral weeks he would even­tu­ally suc­ceed. Tellingly, his in­ter­est is not new, which sug­gests the chance of suc­cess is far higher. He first ex­pressed a de­sire to buy New­cas­tle in Novem­ber 2019, only to be briefly dis­suaded from pur­su­ing a deal by re­ports that Saudi Ara­bia’s Public In­vest­ment Fund was be­hind a ri­val bid fronted by the fi­nancier Amanda Stave­ley.

A price of £350 mil­lion has al­ready been agreed with Mike Ash­ley, the New­cas­tle owner. Ne­go­ti­a­tions have been speed­ing up since the start of the month, when the Saudi con­sor­tium lost its ex­clu­siv­ity. The sports shop bil­lion­aire is be­lieved to be happy the funds are there for the trans­ac­tion to be com­pleted, but no timescale is be­ing put on the takeover.

Ash­ley is un­der­stood to have ef­fec­tively given up on the Saudi deal at the end of June and had lost con­fi­dence in Stave­ley over prom­ises that the deal would be passed by the Premier League, de­spite the piracy is­sue, be­cause PIF was a sep­a­rate le­gal en­tity to the Saudi Ara­bian govern­ment. It was an ar­gu­ment, ap­par­ently, un­der­mined by the fact that Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, the coun­try’s de facto ruler, was chair­man of the fund.

Nev­er­the­less, it was still a sur­prise when Stave­ley re­leased a state­ment yes­ter­day say­ing her com­pany, PCP Cap­i­tal, and PIF had pulled out of their at­tempt to buy the club, as they had not in­formed any­one at New­cas­tle.

Although Mau­riss was al­ready at the ta­ble, their with­drawal gives him a clear shot and there is a grow­ing sense he will be the owner be­fore the start of next sea­son.

Not much is known about the busi­ness­man, but The Tele­graph has been as­sured by those close to the deal that he has a well-fi­nanced and well-planned project that in­cludes the money to not only buy the club, but to in­vest in it. It is un­der­stood the loose busi­ness model will be based on the ap­proach taken by Fen­way Sports Group at Liver­pool, with bud­geted, grad­ual growth at the core of the mis­sion state­ment.

Ques­tions have been raised about the Amer­i­can’s lack of per­sonal wealth, but he is not buy­ing the club as an in­di­vid­ual. In­stead, ClearTV has raised the money, with Mau­riss as chief ex­ec­u­tive driv­ing the in­ter­est. He is ex­pected to be the fig­ure­head of the new regime but will also ap­point a spe­cial­ist team to run var­i­ous de­part­ments.

The Tele­graph has also been as­sured that as well as match­ing Ash

ley’s ask­ing price, there will be ad­di­tional in­vest­ment in the team and club as a whole, with an em­pha­sis on work­ing with part­ners in the city to grow it into a far more com­pet­i­tive Premier League op­er­a­tion than it has been un­der Ash­ley.

There will also be no rush to find a new man­ager, as Steve Bruce will be given a chance to show what he can do with a larger trans­fer fund.

He will, though, have to prove him­self quickly if the takeover goes through, as Mau­riss sees New­cas­tle as a club who should be es­tab­lished in the top 10, chal­leng­ing for Euro­pean qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Although at­tempts have been made to con­tact the Amer­i­can, who is based in Cal­i­for­nia, Mau­riss will not com­ment on the deal.

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