DUBAI: Amanda Staveley, the financial entrepreneur who made her name in Middle East investment, could use Arabian Gulf money in a possible takeover of English football club Newcastle United.
She is said to be interested in the club in the northeast of England, believing it shares similar characteristics to Manchester City, which she helped Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan of the UAE buy in 2008 for £210 million ($278 million), and which has since risen to the top of the English Premier League (EPL), helped by a big injection of Gulf cash.
A source close to Staveley told Arab News that her interest in Newcastle was at an early stage, that there had been no talks yet with Mike Ashley, the current owner, and that she was still interested in other clubs in the EPL.
But it was also indicated that a deal could be done relatively quickly, if serious talks got underway, possibly by the end of the year.
Staveley attended a football match in Newcastle last weekend as the guest of Rafa Benitez, the manager, signaling her interest in a possible takeover of the club. Ashley has said on several occasions that he would be a willing seller of Newcastle, which he has owned since 2007, at the right price.
Like Manchester City, Newcastle is a traditionally strong footballing brand in a city that is enthusiastic about the game.
Unlike the City deal, however, in which Staveley acted as an adviser to Sheikh Mansour, she would be the principal investor in Newcastle, via her firm PCP Capital Partners. Any bid would be backed by funds from her extensive network of contacts in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere.
Globally PCP has $37 billion of assets under management, with Staveley acting for big Gulf investors in London real estate and other assets, as well as for wealthy Chinese investors.
Any discussions between Staveley and Ashley are likely to focus on price. Ashley is said to have spent £300 million on the club in the 10 years he has owned it, so any deal would probably have to start at that price.
Staveley was earlier this year linked with a much bigger deal for Liverpool Football Club, where she was marginally involved in an abortive takeover by Dubai investors in 2007. She was also said to be interested in doing a deal with Tottenham Hotspur, the north London club.
She told Arab News in June that she saw English football as an “attractive investment,” but is believed to have grown interested in Newcastle since then. A source said that there were five clubs that she was analyzing from a financial point of view.
The identity of Middle East investors to help fund Staveley’s possible bid is not yet known. She has extensive connections in the UAE and Qatar, and has also been looking increasingly at Saudi Arabia, where she said she saw big investment opportunities on the back of the Vision 2030 transformation strategy.
English football, and the EPL in particular, has become increasingly attractive to global investors thanks to the billions of dollars paid to clubs for broadcasting rights, which in turn leads to higher worldwide TV audiences and advertising sponsorships.
The original version of this article stated that St. James’ Park, Newcastle FC’s home stadium, is owned by the football club. This is not the case and the reference has been removed.