Newcastle United finally have new ownership, bringing a dramatic end to the Mike Ashley era on Tyneside after 14 difficult and often contentious years.
A Saudi Arabian-financed consortium, led by Amanda Staveley, the British businesswoman, has bought out the billionaire retailer for a fee of around £305 million, concluding a takeover saga that has dragged on for more than 18 months and seen the club embroiled in legal disputes with the Premier League.
A Premier League statement read: “The Premier League, Newcastle United Football Club and St James Holdings Limited have today settled the dispute over the takeover of the club by the consortium of PIF, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media. Following the completion of the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test, the club has been sold to the consortium with immediate effect.
“The legal disputes concerned which entities would own and/or have the ability to control the club following the takeover. All parties have agreed the settlement is necessary to end the long uncertainty for fans over the club’s ownership. The Premier League has now received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club.
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“All parties are pleased to have concluded this process which gives certainty and clarity to Newcastle United Football Club and their fans.”
Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of PIF, commented: “We are extremely proud to become the new owners of Newcastle United, one of the most famous clubs in English football.
“We thank the Newcastle fans for their tremendously loyal support over the years and we are excited to work together with them.”
Amanda Staveley, chief executive officer of PCP Capital Partners, said: “This is a long-term investment. We are excited about the future prospects for Newcastle United.
“We intend to instill a united philosophy across the club, establish a clear purpose, and help provide leadership that will allow Newcastle United to go on to big achievements over the long term.
“Our ambition is aligned with the fans – to create a consistently successful team that’s regularly competing for major trophies and generates pride across the globe.”
Jamie Reuben of RB Sports & Media, said: “We look forward to a great future for Newcastle United. Newcastle is a fantastic city, which is why our family has been investing heavily in the area for many years. To become part of this great Club and its amazing fans is a privilege.
“We will build a true community club, based upon our family’s knowledge of the city and in line with our plans that have been worked on closely with Newcastle City Council to deliver long-term sustainable growth for the area.”
In July last year, Staveley’s group pulled out of a deal to buy Newcastle after the Premier League failed to give regulatory approval. The issue was the separation — or lack of — between the Saudi state and its Public Investment Fund (PIF), which would have owned an 80 per cent share of the club. Staveley would have held 10 per cent and David and Simon Reuben, the British businessmen, the other 10 per cent.
In spite of Ashley and Newcastle beginning arbitration proceedings and engaging in a Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT), which was heard last week, negotiations between all parties have continued, amid political pressure at the highest level.
The ownership model will remain the same as the original plan.
Saudi Arabia’s involvement raises important questions about geopolitics, sportswashing and human rights, but a recent poll conducted by the Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) found that 93.8 per cent of its members were in favour of the takeover.
The speed of developments mean that the new owners will avoid any knee-jerk decisions. It is thought that Lee Charnley, the managing director, will remain in his role for a few weeks, liaising with the new regime.
Bruce took training on Thursday morning but although Staveley’s group are intent on conducting a full review of Newcastle’s operations on and off the field, it is expected that the 60-year-old Geordie will leave his post.