Ashley: Toon sale at advanced stage
MIKE AshlEy says Newcastle United could have new owners before January with takeover talks at an advanced stage.
The sports retail tycoon revealed on live television last night that he is hopeful of selling the club in the coming weeks, hours after he appeared in front of MPs at a parliamentary select committee to explain how he could save the UK high street.
sources close to Ashley have long insisted that £300million up front would be enough to buy the club but no party — including Amanda staveley and PCP Capital Partners, who acted for the Abu Dhabi royal family, 12 months ago — has ever come close to meeting his valuation, until now.
Given that his preference is not to conduct takeover business in public, there is a strong chance that this is a tactic to hurry along investors, especially as sources have suggested there is more than one group who have expressed interest in recent weeks.
They say an unnamed investment fund are among those suitors but they have not signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Ashley said: ‘I am hopeful for the Newcastle fans, for the club, for everybody, that I will be able to step aside and we will be able to get an owner in who will please everybody. I’d like that to be before the January transfer window. It’s possible. “Realistic” is maybe too strong a word.
‘We are not in exclusive talks but they are at a more progressed stage than they have ever been.’
Sportsmail reported in October that a group of American businessmen were interested in buying Newcastle, rivalling the consortium being put together by the former Manchester United and Chelsea chief executive, Peter Kenyon.
But the identity of the party Ashley has spoken about remains a mystery and his revelations on sky News even caught some of those close to him on the hop.
One name which has been doing the rounds is that of Arthur Blank, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons of the NFl and the Mls franchise Atlanta United. The 76-year-old is said to be worth nearly £4billion.
supporters have reacted with scepticism to the news, given the proximity to the January transfer window, but they are also hopeful that developments could lead to a quick sale and funds for manager Rafa Benitez to invest in the new year.
There was no comment from Newcastle United.