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takeover of Newcastle United has collapsed after the offer of more than £300million to buy the club was suddenly withdrawn amid fury at the Premier League delaying its approval.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