Mike Ashley agrees deal to sell Newcastle United for £300m

Mike Ashley

The sale of Newcastle United has moved a significant step closer with a £300 million deal believed to have been agreed between Mike Ashley and a consortium backed by Saudi Arabia.

It is understood that the Premier League has been informed that both parties are happy with the terms of a potential deal to end the Sports Direct owner’s time at the northeast club, which he bought for £134 million in 2007.

Documents were filed at Companies House last week by Amanda Staveley, the businesswoman fronting the bid, which confirm that talks have taken place between her and Ashley. Staveley led a similar attempt to buy the club just over two years ago.

The 31-page document is seen as further indication of the seriousness of Staveley and PCP Capital Partners to quickly conclude a deal this time. The Premier League has been sent details of the potential takeover and have started checks under its owners’ and directors’ test. The lowering of the fee from an offer thought to be about £340 million reflects the uncertainty in football and finance as a result of the coronavirus.

Staveley’s aim has been to broker a deal to end Ashley’s ownership of the club with a view to retaining a shareholding of 10 per cent, with the Reuben Brothers private equity firm holding a similar stake and an 80 per cent share being held by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Newcastle would not comment on the latest developments. Ashley was angered by Staveley’s attempt to take control at the end of 2017. Then, through a club source, he said: “Attempts to reach a deal with Amanda Staveley and PCP have proved exhausting, frustrating and a complete waste of time.”

There followed an attempt by Peter Kenyon, the former Manchester United and Chelsea chief executive, to broker a deal for the club, a lengthy process that sources say cost Newcastle about £1 million in legal costs. Last summer, a high-profile attempt to purchase the club by the Dubai-based Bin Zayed Group amounted to nothing.

Ashley has been attempting to sell since 2008, after a high-profile fallout with the former manager Kevin Keegan, who successfully sued the club for constructive dismissal. The club have been relegated from the Premier League twice during Ashley’s controversial 13 years in control.

The Sports Direct owner met more recent controversy when he was forced to issue a public apology after trying to keep his stores open at the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown.

He has also faced a backlash after furloughing the majority of Newcastle’s non-playing staff and so far not following Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur’s move in reversing their decisions to do so.

The documents lodged by Staveley outline a potential financial deal between Ashley and Staveley that is understood to be related to a separate, ongoing legal case she has with Barclays Bank at the High Court.

A spokesman for Staveley also declined to comment.