Saudis hit out as New­cas­tle deal col­lapses

➤ Premier League de­lays over ap­proval blamed by Stave­ley ➤ At the mo­ment I am just heart­bro­ken, says bid leader

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sports Newspaper Of The Year - By Jason Burt chief foot­ball cor­re­spon­dent

The Saudi Ara­bian-backed takeover of New­cas­tle United has col­lapsed af­ter the of­fer of more than £300mil­lion to buy the club was sud­denly with­drawn amid fury at the Premier League de­lay­ing its ap­proval.

Amanda Stave­ley, the fi­nancier head­ing the bid, told The Daily Tele­graph that “all the ques­tions” had been an­swered and yet the Premier League could not pro­vide a time­frame for a de­ci­sion, de­spite an agree­ment be­ing reached at the end of March with New­cas­tle’s owner, Mike Ash­ley.

“I am ab­so­lutely dev­as­tated for the New­cas­tle fans,” Stave­ley said. “I think it’s the great­est club in the world. I am so an­gry that I will come back in a few days maybe and fig­ure out [what to do], but at the mo­ment I am just heart­bro­ken. The only way back is for the Premier League to ap­prove the bid. We have an­swered all their ques­tions. They say we have not, but we have.”

The Tele­graph re­vealed this week that dead­lock had been reached, with the Premier League de­mand­ing a for­mal link was es­tab­lished be­tween the Saudi state and the Public In­vest­ment Fund, which was ac­quir­ing an 80 per cent stake in New­cas­tle, as a con­di­tion of pass­ing the own­ers’ and di­rec­tors’ test.

This was re­garded as an “im­pos­si­ble de­mand” by sources who in­sist the PIF is an au­ton­o­mous in­vest­ment body, which has stakes in busi­nesses through­out the world, even though its chair­man is Crown Prince Mo­hammed Bin Sal­man.

It may be that the Premier League wanted to for­malise the link to head off fu­ture com­plaints about piracy of broad­cast rights in the Mid­dle East, which the Qataris have claimed is Saudi-spon­sored. The Saudis were also crit­i­cised in a World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion re­port and there has been at­tempted le­gal ac­tion by the Premier League in the king­dom.

How­ever, Stave­ley in­sisted “the piracy is­sue was not an is­sue” while a se­nior source said the bid­ders had “reached the end of their tether with the Premier League, hav­ing gone be­yond what was ex­pected in the own­ers’ and di­rec­tors’ test” and so called the process off.

It is also un­der­stood that:

◆ The Premier League had of­fered to go to in­de­pen­dent ar­bi­tra­tion to try to re­solve the im­passe over the deal, but this was re­jected.

◆ The PIF was plan­ning to in­vest £250 mil­lion in New­cas­tle United over five years, plus put ad­di­tional funds into the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

◆ Ash­ley rene­go­ti­ated the price of the takeover, which has risen above £300 mil­lion, with some sources say­ing it was £305 mil­lion or higher, and will also now be el­i­gi­ble to keep the £15mil­lion de­posit that

was paid be­cause an ex­clu­siv­ity deal ran out at the end of June. How­ever, there was no dis­agree­ment or fall-out with Ash­ley, who wanted the deal to go through.

◆ Two lead­ing Premier League clubs, which sources claimed were Liver­pool and Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur, had raised con­cerns over the takeover, but did not block it.

◆ The Saudis had in­di­cated to the Premier League that they in­tended to put to­gether a con­sor­tium to bid against Qatar’s beIN Sports when the next set of over­seas broad­cast deals for the Mid­dle East and North Africa were ne­go­ti­ated.

◆ The PIF re­mains in­ter­ested in in­vest­ing in sport and will look at other op­por­tu­ni­ties, hav­ing re­garded New­cas­tle as a long-term project.

The process was en­ter­ing its 17th week, when nor­mally it would take less than a month.

Ear­lier this week there was still hope the group would man­age to find a way to com­plete the deal, that in­volved Stave­ley’s PCP Cap­i­tal Part­ners ac­quir­ing 10 per cent of New­cas­tle with the re­main­ing 10 per cent be­ing bought by the prop­erty mag­nates, Reuben Broth­ers.

How­ever, in­stead, the bid­ders is­sued a state­ment con­firm­ing the bid had fi­nally been with­drawn.

It read: “With a deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the New­cas­tle com­mu­nity and the sig­nif­i­cance of its foot­ball club, we have come to the de­ci­sion to with­draw our in­ter­est in ac­quir­ing the club. Un­for­tu­nately, the pro­longed process cou­pled with global un­cer­tainty has ren­dered the po­ten­tial in­vest­ment no longer com­mer­cially vi­able.”

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