Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is said to be ‘delighted’ Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson to intervene in the proposed sale of the club.
The Daily Mail report that Bin Salman urged the British Government to help resurrect the deal. The proposed £300million-plus takeover hit the buffers after the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ tests last summer. After 17 weeks of deliberation, the Premier League had still not made a decision either way. That led the consortium to formally withdraw its offer in July last year.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, of which Bin Salman is the chairman, is the majority partner. The consortium also involves Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners and the Reuben Brothers.
They agreed a takeover deal in April last year but the club remains in the hands of Ashley. The Evening Chronicle published a series of email exchanges between Whitehall and the governing body.
It suggested that, at one point, a decision might have been just days away. The Sports Dirct mogul now wants answers as to what occurred and is said to remain optimistic.
Ashley desperate to sell club
Ashley bought the Magpies for £134.4million in 2007. But he has never been a popular figure and been trying to sell the club for years.
Supporters’ anger has mounted since the proposed takeover’s collapse. And The Mail are suggesting Bin Salman privately urged Johnson in June to intervene.
“We expect the English Premier League to reconsider and correct its wrong conclusion,” the prince is said to have warned the Prime Minister.
Kate Allen, the UK director of human rights organisation Amnesty International gave her views on the takeover.
She said: “The bid to buy Newcastle was a blatant example of Saudi sportswashing, so it’s worrying that the prime minister would accede in any way to pressure from the crown prince over the deal.
“Reports that Mohammed Bin Salman made threats about possible damage to UK-Saudi relations if the deal didn’t go ahead only illustrates that this was always more than just a commercial transaction within the football world.”
The Mail report comes after the Prime Minister this week ordered a review into the collapse of the financial firm Greensill Capital. That was due to concerns over former Prime Minister David Cameron’s lobbying on its behalf.
The government has now denied it was involved ‘at any point’ over the proposed deal.
It remains to be seen how it all plays out but it is sure to polarise opinion. Magpies fans just want rid of Ashley but human rights issues are never far away.