A proposed £ 340 million acquisition of Newcastle United appears to have taken a step closer, with the Premier League informed of an offer led by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund.
The organization has been officially informed of the attempt to repurchase Mike Ashley, with PIF, the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, taking an 80% stake if the deal is successful. Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital is expected to acquire 10% of the club, while the remaining 10% will be taken out by Reuben Brothers, the investment institution of one of the wealthiest families in Britain, owner of the Newcastle racecourse and with a large portfolio of properties and assets worth more than £ 18 billion.
The Telegraph he understands that potential new owners have been in contact with the Premier League to register their intention to buy the club. Staveley, Jamie Reuben, son of David Reuben and the driving force behind his family’s involvement in the deal, and PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan is believed to have been named among the future directors. Al-Rumayyan should be president of Newcastle if the deal is completed. According to League rules, Jamie Reuben would have had to resign as director of the Queens Park Rangers in order to join the board.
It is understood that contacts were made several days ago and it may take up to a month for the Premier League, which is under heavy pressure due to the coronavirus crisis, to conduct checks to ensure that funding is in place and the holders pass the owners and test the directors. However, even if the agreement is signed, no announcement is expected before then.
The move towards the conclusion of an agreement is a surprise, not least because of the uncertainty created by the effects of the pandemic, with all the football suspended. The financial implications are significant, although Newcastle fans will be hugely relieved if the deal is accepted and Ashley’s ownership ends. It will be one of the biggest acquisitions in British football.
Talks have intensified since the beginning of this year with the hope that Ashley could finally be persuaded to sell Newcastle, although negotiations have been problematic.
The consortium, which has codified its plans “Zebra Project” because of Newcastle’s black and white stripes, has high hopes of creating a sports project around the club, with investments in the academy and training ground, as well as in the team of the first team and in regenerating the area.
Staveley, the financier who negotiated the deal, has been trying to buy Newcastle since October 2017 and has received a series of offers rejected by Ashley, but it seems that the change of game is the involvement of PIF, which is chaired by the crown prince. Saudi Mohammed bin Salman and the vast support it could bring.
The Saudis have been considering the best way to make a move in football for some time now and have looked at other teams, but they consider Newcastle to be one with huge potential. Questions have been asked about why, with their wealth, the Saudis want to attract minority partners, but it is not unusual for them to structure agreements in this way.
The PIF fund is central to Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030”, a plan led by Prince Mohammed to diversify the economy from oil and is also the driving force behind the country’s ambitions to develop new tourism and entertainment industries.
David Reuben founds Reuben Brothers with his brother Simon. Their fortune was founded on aluminum and mines in Russia and Afghanistan, but they diversified by investing in UK properties, including the Millbank Tower in central London.
Jamie Reuben, 33, a friend of QPR president Amit Bhatia, is an avid sports fan and joined the club’s board two years ago. He became the public face of the company which is already developing a site in the six-acre center in Newcastle. Reubens’ wealth easily eclipses that of Roman Abramovich although they, and PCP, will be minority partners if the agreement is agreed. Ashley purchased Newcastle for £ 134.4 million in 2007 and the owner of Sports Direct has proven to be an unpopular owner in St James’ Park. Newcastle are 13th in the Premier League under Steve Bruce but were demoted twice from the top flight during Ashley’s reign with the businessman accused of not having invested by the fans.
Staveley’s ability to buy Newcastle has been questioned despite an apparent series of proposed offers.