Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is said to considering ‘two other potential buyers’ for the club amid ‘sportswashing’ concerns following news a Saudi consortium was nearing a takeover agreement.
Details emerged over the weekend of a £340m proposal to purchase the club led by Amanda Staveley, and funded in large part by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, the group believed to have been in discussions with the Newcastle owner for the past four months.
According to the Independent though, Ashley is said to have been left ‘exasperated’ by the details of the takeover being made public, having insisted all business should be conducted ‘behind firmly closed doors’ following a failed takeover bid by Staveley two years ago.
The latest move is said to be backed by the wealth of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whilst brothers David and Simon Reuben – two of Britain’s wealthiest businessmen – are partners in the deal while Yasir Al-Rumayyan would likely be installed as club chairman.
Reports had suggested an agreement was on the verge of being reached, though Ashley is continuing negotiations with two other interested parties, though this could be a move by the sportswear tycoon to encourage the Saudis into finalising their move.
Further complications have come following Amnesty International’s response to the consortium’s bid, with their head of campaigns, Felix Jakens labelling the move as further ‘sportswashing’ from Saudi Arabia – an attempt to deflect away from the country’s ‘abysmal’ human rights record and improve their reputation worldwide.
Amnesty International’s standing on the bid may prove influential, if and when Premier League approval is sought for the takeover to be completed.