Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 November 2019

Emirati businessman in talks to purchase Newcastle United

Representatives of Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed claim to have “agreed terms” for the English Premier League football club

Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed, left, speaking at a workshop held by the Dubai Economic Council. Randi Sokoloff for The National
Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed, left, speaking at a workshop held by the Dubai Economic Council. Randi Sokoloff for The National

An Emirati businessman is in talks to buy Newcastle United, it has been confirmed.

Representatives of Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed, chairman of the Bin Zayed Group, claimed on Monday evening to have “agreed terms” for the English Premier League football club.

In a statement, Midhat Kidwai, Bin Zayed Group’s managing director, said the company was now “working hard to complete the transaction at the earliest opportunity”.

It was reported earlier by The Sun, a UK tabloid, that the deal to purchase the club, from Mike Ashley, the British retail tycoon, is said to be worth £350 million (Dh1.6bn). Details of the negotiations emerged after Newcastle secured a 13th placed finish in the Premier League, with the season concluding on May 11.

“We can confirm the representatives of His Highness Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan are in discussions with Mike Ashley and his team about the proposed acquisition of Newcastle United Football Club,” Mr Kidwai’s statement said.

“We view it as an honour to have the opportunity to build on the strong support, history and tradition of the club.

“We have agreed terms and are working hard to complete the transaction at the earliest opportunity.”

A Newcastle United spokesman confirmed to The National that the statement was genuine but also said the club would not make any further comment at this stage.

Earlier on Monday, it was said that Sheikh Khaled’s takeover bid was at an advanced stage, with The Sun reporting that “contracts have been signed and submitted to the Premier League”, which must approve any change in ownership.

Sky Sports in the UK said that while it understood talks had taken place, there was “some way to go for any deal to be agreed.”

The Bin Zayed Group, founded in 1988, is a conglomerate with diverse business interests including construction, energy, property and financial services, according to its website.

The prospect of a deal has been greeted overwhelmingly positively by supporters of the club, who are seen as one of European football’s sleeping giants.

However, the current Newcastle side are judged as having overachieved in the Premier League over the past two years, with fans criticising long-term underinvestment in players and the club’s infrastructure since Mr Ashley first bought into the club in 2007.

Rafa Benitez, the team manager, has received credit for delivering a 10th placed finish in the 20-team league in 2017-18, after winning promotion from the second-tier of English football, followed by the 13th placed finish in the season that has just concluded.

The Spanish coach, who is overwhelmingly popular with supporters, had been in talks about a possible extension to his contract, which is due to expire at the end of June.

Despite last winning a major trophy in 1969, Newcastle typically attracts crowds of more than 52,000 to St James’ Park, its home stadium, and is one of the best-supported teams in England.

Amanda Staveley, the British businesswoman, has tried to buy Newcastle United, but the talks broke down Pawan Singh / The National.
Amanda Staveley, the British businesswoman, has tried to buy Newcastle United, but the talks broke down Pawan Singh / The National.

The fans will hope that any takeover will lead to greater investment in the club and help persuade Benitez, 59, to commit his long-term future to Newcastle.

Sheikh Khaled, 61, was linked to a £2 billion (Dh9.3bn) takeover of Liverpool last year, which would have been the most expensive takeover of a football side in history.

However, the proposal did not get past the vetting stage, media reports said.

Amanda Staveley, the Dubai-based businesswoman who runs PCP Capital Partners, also tried to purchase Newcastle, although talks broke down in 2017.

A series of other parties are said to have been interested since Mr Ashley publicly put the club up for sale earlier that year, although none has been able to complete a deal.

Updated: May 28, 2019 01:29 PM

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