herald

Sunday 19 November 2017

No Turkish delight for Toon

Amanda Staveley
Amanda Staveley

The man tasked with finding a buyer for Newcastle has already been inundated with enquiries.

Monday night's announcement that the club is officially on the market is understood to have set City lawyer Andrew Henderson's telephone ringing as owner Mike Ashley targets a deal before Christmas.

Henderson and his team are sifting through calls in a bid to weed out time-wasters from genuine candidates.

It is understood non-disclosure agreements with four interested parties have been signed, while speculation has been rife in recent weeks that Amanda Staveley could be ready to make a move.

Staveley, who played a key role in Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, is said to control around £28billion of Middle East money through PCP Capital Partners and is reportedly looking to invest in an English top-flight club.

She met club officials after attending the 1-1 Premier League draw with Liverpool at St James' Park on October 1, although there has as yet been no formal expression of interest.

However, claims have been dismissed that Turkish billionaire Murat Ulker, chairman of Yildiz Holding which owns the McVitie's biscuit brand, was ready to launch a bid. A spokesman for Yildiz Holding said: "The company is not purchasing Newcastle United Football Club and no discussions about the team have taken place. We wish them the best of luck in finding a new owner."

There were claims during the summer that Newcastle had attracted interest from China, although nothing further has materialised, while it is understood America could yet prove a source of investment.

Ashley is hoping it will be a case of third time lucky as he attempts to finally offload the club he brought for £134.4million in 2007, following his two unsuccessful previous attempts to sell up.

However, sources close to the Sports Direct businessman have insisted he will only do business with a buyer who is able fund significant spending in a way he admitted recently he cannot do.

As a result, there is no exact price tag, with speculation suggesting the current owner is looking for anywhere between £300million and £450million before relinquishing control. But there is a requirement to demonstrate a willingness to take the club forward on and off the field.

The first team are currently as attractive a proposition as they have been for some time and currently lie in ninth place in the table after Sunday's 2-2 draw at Southampton, which cemented a positive start to life back in the Premier League.

The riches available to English football's big guns - the current broadcast deal is worth £5.14billion - are a huge pull. There is the added advantage of Newcastle having former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez at the helm and 52,000-plus home crowds.

Benitez cut a frustrated figure in both January and the summer as his transfer plans were severely limited by Ashley's decision not to fund major transfer spending. He believed funds would be forthcoming, prompting the owner's frank admission which in turn perhaps signalled what was to come.

However, an ongoing HMRC investigation into allegations that the club abused the tax system may prove a complication.

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