Saudi-led consortium pulls out of Newcastle United takeover bid

Talks between the consortium and Michael Ashley, the British retail entrepreneur who owns the club, have been under way since last year on a proposed takeover. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 30 July 2020

Saudi-led consortium pulls out of Newcastle United takeover bid

  • A statement from the investment group said the decision was made with “a deep appreciation for the Newcastle community and its football club”

DUBAI: A consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has withdrawn a proposed take-over of Newcastle United, the English Premier League football club.

A statement from the investment group, which also included UK investor Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital and the family business of the British entrepreneur Reuben Brothers, said the decision was made with “a deep appreciation for the Newcastle community and its football club. We believe we could have returned the club to the position of its history, traditions and fans’ merit.”

Talks between the consortium and Michael Ashley, the British retail entrepreneur who owns the club, have been under way since last year on a proposed takeover, with a suggested price tag in the region of GBP300m.

But the negotiations stalled after formal contracts were exchanged in April because of the need for formal approval from the English Premier League, whose rules govern ownership of clubs in the top rank.

The approval process was also delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic that led to the cancellation of English football matches for three months.

“The prolonged process under the current circumstances coupled with global uncertainty has rendered the potential investment no longer commercially viable,” a consortium statement said.

“During the unforeseeably prolonged process, the commercial agreement between the investment group and the club’s owners expired, and our investment thesis could not be sustained,” the consortium said.

It also noted that there was no clarity as to the circumstances under which the next season will start and the new norms will arise for matches, training and other facilities. The English football season is due to restart in September but issues relating to crowd attendance have not been finalized.

The takeover was overwhelmingly supported by fans of the 128 year old club, which boasts among the highest attendances in English football.

“We feel great compassion for the fans with whom we shared a great commitment to help Newcastle harness its tremendous potential and build upon its impressive and historic legacy while working closely with the local community,” the statement added.

The takeover, with Saudi investors in the driving seat, was seen as part of the strategy to diversify the Kingdom’s interests as part of its Vision 2030 plan. PIF has spent nearly $8 billion on foreign investment since the pandemic hit global financial markets.

“Our focus was on building long term value for the club, its fans and the community as we remained committed to collaboration, practicality and proactivity through a difficult period of global uncertainty and significant challenges for the fans and the club,” the consortium said.

“We would like to say that we truly appreciated your incredible expressions of support and your patience through this process. We are sorry it is not to be,” the PIF-led consortium said.


NBA playoff picture comes into a bit more focus

Updated 08 August 2020

NBA playoff picture comes into a bit more focus

  • Orlando and Washington are last two teams contending for one spot in the East
  • The race for the last unclaimed playoff spot in the Western Conference remains close

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: The NBA playoff picture is getting a little clearer.
Brooklyn secured one of the last two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference on Friday, defeating Sacramento 119-106. That leaves Orlando and Washington as the last two teams contending for one spot in the East, with the Magic needing only one more win or one Wizards loss to clinch.
Orlando and Washington were both playing later Friday.
For the Nets, the clinching comes as something to savor in a topsy-turvy season.
Kevin Durant couldn’t play at all because of his recovery from Achilles surgery — yet still got a $1 million contract bonus because Brooklyn made the postseason. Kyrie Irving missed much of the year because of injury, the Nets had several regulars opt out of participating in the restart, changed coaches in March and have used 24 players so far this season.
“It’s great to punch our own ticket into the playoffs,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “I joked with the guys: I like my laundry being done, but nothing like doing your own laundry.”
The race for the last unclaimed playoff spot in the Western Conference remains close, with teams vying to grab the No. 8 spot and play the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. If the eighth- and ninth-place teams are within four games of one another when the seeding game schedule ends next week, there will be a two-game series to determine who gets the last playoff spot.
Should that series take place, the ninth-place team would have to go 2-0 in a best-of-two series to advance.
Memphis remained alone in eighth, after the Grizzlies snapped a four-game bubble losing streak by beating Oklahoma City on Friday 121-92. The Grizzlies are one game ahead of Portland in the West standings.
“We channeled what we’ve done all season long,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We played Grizzlies basketball. Grizzlies basketball equals Grizzlies wins, more often than not. We hadn’t done that in the first four games.”
San Antonio leaped idle Phoenix into 10th in the West by beating Utah 119-111, with the Spurs improving to 3-2 in the bubble. The Spurs (30-38) are one game behind Portland in the standings.
“At the end of the day, we can’t control what they’re doing,” Spurs center Jakob Poeltl said. “We can only control what we’re doing. We’re going to take every game as it comes. We’re going to try to win every game.”
Phoenix, Sacramento and New Orleans remain in the mix for a play-in series spot. The Suns, who are 4-0 at Disney, play Miami on Saturday.