I can't even blame ashley for this not going through, it's down to the premier league.
It sounds like it will cost potentially lots of jobs in the region as well.
This from Amanda Steverly...
"It hasn’t sunk in, not quite, and there are moments when she is weeping and there are moments when she is pulsing with energy and anger. There are moments when she accepts this unhappy ending and there are moments when she is less sure about what it all entails and what might happen next. “I don’t know,” she says. “I don’t want to give up.” And then she asks: “What would you do?”
Thirty months after Amanda Staveley’s first attempt to buy Newcastle United hit the buffers, here we are again: this clenched fist to the stomach. But this is worse. It hurts more. There is a financial hit for the businesswoman and her family, but what really aches is how close they came. How a restless club famous for its lack of success, for its truncated ambition and its mighty, yearning support, almost touched the big-time.
“I’m absolutely devastated,” she says. “I’m so upset, I don’t know how to express it. I’m heartbroken. I can barely speak. I believe we weren’t just the right partners for Newcastle, we were the only partners.”
A brief recap: in 2017-18, Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners submitted three bids to purchase Newcastle from Mike Ashley, the retail billionaire. Discussions broke down in acrimony, but Staveley did not go away. For the last year and more, she has been building a consortium, 10 per cent financed by her, 10 per cent by the Reuben family and 80 per cent by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
It is the last bit that has proved so contentious, with the Premier League sifting through their Owners’ and Directors’ Test for 16 long and frustrating weeks. You might have thought that the hard work had been done. Over his 13 years at St James’ Park, Ashley has been known as a difficult owner and a difficult seller, but a £300 million deal was agreed and signed, a £17 million deposit was paid (and is now lost), and all that was left was regulatory approval.
First came the protests about Saudi and human rights. Then came the disputes about television piracy, the geopolitics. After months of mixed signals — the consortium were given “private assurances” on at least two occasions that the Premier League would wave the deal through, sources insist — there were then further demands about Newcastle’s proposed ownership structure. It was too much. Led by PIF, the group pulled out.
“The Premier League wanted the country, Saudi, to become a director of the football club,” Staveley says. “That’s what this is about. They were effectively saying ‘PIF wouldn’t be the ultimate beneficial owner, we believe it’s actually the government, therefore we want the country to become a director’, which puts them in an impossible situation. They feel they weren’t wanted by the Premier League.
“I hope the fans realise what’s happened, that this is a lot more complicated than it might seem. I want them to understand the whole thing about the directorship, that it would be impossible for a state to become a director. The Premier League made it so hard. It would be unprecedented. No country has ever become a director of a club. It’s ridiculous.
“They were saying ‘you know what, we won’t reject you but we won’t approve you either, so we’ll just sit here for month after month’. They could have told us all this before we exchanged. It’s up to the fans now. Because if the fans want this back on then they’re going to have to go to the Premier League and say this isn’t fair.” The Premier League declined to comment on the specifics of the failed takeover attempt.
The irony is that Newcastle supporters have been the least relevant, least consulted group of all. They have waited and fretted, been told what they should think and feel by pundits, journalists, politicians and pressure groups, but they have never had a say, beyond making their own feelings clear. And, in that sense, they were definitive: 96.7 per cent of the Newcastle United Supporters Trust’s 10,000-plus members answered positively when asked if they wished the takeover to go ahead.
It is not hard to understand why, for all that many will have felt conflicted about the moral and ethical questions being flung at them. Newcastle could be so much more; more than they are, more than the 13th best team in the Premier League, and here were owners with the resources to take them there. Here was their opportunity. And finally, after all those doubts, Ashley wanted out, too.
“We had a plan for £250 million of investment in the club over the first few years, as much as we could put in,” Staveley says. “And on top of that, we had massive plans to invest in the city, in housing, everything. We talked with the council. Newcastle are the last great untapped club. The last great club with so much potential to grow and improve and with a fanbase who were already there and who wanted it so much.”
It was about emotion, too. “I fell in love with Newcastle,” she says. “I fell in love with the passion, the fans. It was just this incredible club. And I knew that with investment and nurturing it could become even better. It needed TLC. It needed a patient owner. It desperately needs investment. That day we first walked into St James’ … it felt like we had come home. We knew what they needed. We wanted it, too. And I know we could have done it.”
‘That day’ came at home to Liverpool in October 2017, below. Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi, her husband, were invited to watch Newcastle’s 1-1 draw by friends and associates. Word had got out; they were spotted and serenaded. She had been involved in Sheikh Mansour’s purchase of Manchester City and an unsuccessful bid to buy Liverpool. She was looking for a club and Newcastle had it all.
“That day we first walked in, it was a dark, grey evening against Liverpool,” Ghodoussi tells The Athletic. “You walked in, up the stairs, through the directors’ area and out into the stadium and you just felt this tremendous energy. It was incredible. As a Londoner, I’d go to Chelsea or Tottenham Hotspur games and I’d never experienced anything like it. Amanda and I just looked at each other and said, ‘this is it. This is the club we should be buying.’
Their first go at it fell through in January 2018 when Ashley pulled the plug. Sources close to Ashley briefed Sky Sports News that negotiations had been “exhausting, frustrating and a complete waste of time”. Staveley was distraught, telling The Times, “The suggestion that we were either wasting time or not serious is absurd. It’s hurtful. Hugely hurtful.” She was “very much still interested in buying Newcastle,” she said.
Ashley has a vivid history of baffling decisions in his tenure at Newcastle, but on this occasion, no blame is attached. When the original deadline for the completion of this deal expired in late June — nobody had considered that the Premier League might take so long to reach a verdict — he manoeuvred for more money, but Staveley does not resent that.
“Please don’t think there was any argument between Mike and I because there wasn’t,” she says. “All this crap about Mike and I not getting on … We get on very well. There’s no issue with Mike. None at all. We had a deal agreed. Yes, there was a bit more money on the table, but we agreed it.”
“When things went public the first time, it became hard at various points, but ultimately we got beyond that,” Ghodoussi says. “We agreed a deal with him. And yes, he played around with numbers, but we were happy to pay what we needed to pay. The reason the deal failed is because of the Premier League not because of Mike. That’s really important.”
“Mike is as disappointed as we are,” Staveley says. “He’s devastated, too.”
What about the reports that other potential buyers are already lining up? That Henry Mauriss, the American chief executive of ClearTV Media, is waiting in the wings with £350 million? “There aren’t other bids. It’s rubbish,” Staveley says.
And what about Newcastle’s peers and rivals? “We know that other clubs briefed heavily against it. Because they were jealous.”
This was Staveley’s baby; she would have run the club on the consortium’s behalf, joined on the prospective board by Ghodoussi, Jamie Reuben and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of PIF. In spite of all the noise and flak and turmoil, they are adamant that their approach was sound.
“When we first tried to buy Newcastle, we tried to bring in a Chinese partner, but we realised that it’s not just about buying a club, it’s about being able to invest in that club, it’s about being able to invest in the community, the academy and the infrastructure,” Ghodoussi says. “That takes a lot. You need a strong partner to be able to do that. And the reason we went out and approached PIF — it wasn’t PIF wanting to buy Newcastle — and put a deal in front of them was because they saw and understood and believed in our vision.
“It wasn’t about sports-washing. If they wanted to do do that, they could have gone out and bought Manchester United for £3 billion and got 500 million supporters overnight. It was a passion from Yasir (Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the PIF), who is an avid sportsman. It fitted into Saudi Vision 2030, where they are diversifying into new investment, building relationships with communities.
“They genuinely felt a kinship to Newcastle. We presented it in a way where they genuinely believed in it and saw it as a long-term project to develop the club, to invest in the community and the academy — that was so important.
“Amanda and I will get up and dust ourselves down. We’ve lived and breathed this for three years. We’ve suffered a loss financially, as well, but what is heartbreaking and really upsetting — and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, as does Amanda — is what this will mean for the fans. For some of them, this is their life. They go to work, they come home and the one silver lining is watching Newcastle at St James’. Growing up, it’s the passion they put into the club.”
And now, once again, supporters have invested hope. And now, once again, hope has been snatched from their grasp.
Does Staveley have any left? For a little while, she breaks off. “I’m crying, I’m sorry,” she says. She knew what she wanted to say if and when the takeover had been passed. A mission statement was prepared and practised. She would have talked about ambition and drive, about getting to the Champions League, about communicating with fans, embracing club legends, funding the women’s team, reaching out to local businesses and institutions.
Instead, it is this.
“I’m trying very hard to understand,” she says. “Today is probably not the right day … I need to figure out if there is any route through this.”
“Even now, if the Premier League came to us and said ‘we will approve you’ we would do this deal tomorrow, all three parties of the consortium,” Ghodoussi says.
“Mike has agreed, we’ve agreed, the Reubens, PIF,” says Staveley. “The only reason the deal won’t get done is because the Premier League won’t pass it. Everybody is just so, so sad.”
Is there a chance, however slim?
“I don’t know,” she says. “I just don’t know. I don’t want to give up, but I can’t do it on my own. I’ve tried. I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried. You need investment. You can’t just buy a club with no investment behind you. You need £600-700 million minimum, to do a deal like this. That was all in place.”
She breaks off again. “I can’t believe it,” she says.