Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 February 2020

Saudi sovereign wealth fund reportedly in talks to buy Newcastle United for £340 million

The Public Investment Fund and a group of investors organised by UK financier Amanda Staveley are in talks to buy the Premier League club, according to reports

A Saudi sovereign wealth fund is reportedly in talks to purchase Premier League club Newcastle United.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that the Public Investment Fund, together with a group of investors organised by British financier Amanda Staveley, are in talks to buy the English club for £340 million (Dh1.6 billion), with a deal days or weeks away.

A spokesman for Newcastle United declined to comment on Saturday, while Saudi's Public Investment Fund, controlled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was not immediately available for comment when contacted by The National.

News of a potential bid to buy the club will no doubt buoy disgruntled Newcastle fans who have long been at loggerheads with their side's owner, Mike Ashley.

Ashley, a British retail tycoon, has been trying for years to sell the club he acquired in 2007 for £134m. The 55-year-old has been a deeply unpopular figure among fans, largely due to a lack of investment in the playing squad that has led to the club being relegated twice during his reign.

At the end of 2017, Ashley was said to have turned down an offer of about £300m from a consortium led by PCP Capital Partners, run by Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi.

Opto Advisers, led by former Chelsea and Manchester United chief executive Peter Kenyon, is reportedly putting together an offer for the club. But a source told The National that Kenyon was unable to raise the required funds to instigate a bid.

The Bin Zayed Group held protracted negotiations with Newcastle last summer with a view to buying the club for a fee of around £350m. The Emirati business group said in May 2019 that it had agreed terms for the purchase of the Premier League side from Ashley, and this was “reflected in a document, signed by both parties, which has been forwarded to the Premier League”.

In July, the group took the unusual step of releasing a statement via a third party, insisting it had completed all aspects of the takeover process and was "working diligently" to get the deal over the line.

The group's interest in the purchase of the club has cooled since then, but should the report of Saudi interest come to fruition, Newcastle fans would expect significant funds to be made available to manager Steve Bruce in the summer to sign players.

The club, who play their home matches at the 52,000-seater St James' Park, are currently 14th in the Premier League after 24 games and face third-tier Oxford United in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday.

Should PIF be successful in their bid to buy the club, Newcastle would become the second Premier League club with ties to the kingdom after Sheffield United, who are owned by Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz, a grandson of Saudi founder King Abdulaziz.

Updated: January 26, 2020 12:59 PM

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