August 1, 2021

For Newcastle, everything is done, everything remains to be done

Let us leave aside, for the moment, and even though it is not easy, the ethical dimension of the acquisition of a new first-rate club by the sovereign fund of a state; and what is more, from a state whose heavy reputation in terms of human rights, or rather their violation, should at least give pause to these Newcastle supporters, far too many of whom have turned overnight into apologists for the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Let’s reserve this necessary discussion for later, when the deal between current NUFC owner Mike Ashley, the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and the latter’s associates has been concluded in earnest – a much less transparent deal than it does. seems there, which deserves that we dwell on it.

Because whatever the Times as of this Monday, this transaction is not yet “done“, that famous adjective that is used wrongly and through in the famous”infos“Dear to the football world. Robinho’s transfer to Chelsea was”made“. Hazard at Real Madrid, it was”made“six months before that happened, when Eden in person (and that, I can guarantee it to you) was not yet sure himself of his future destination.

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When the press mentioned the arrival of Eden Hazard at Real Madrid

Credit: Eurosport

The desire to be the first to launch the famous “info“is far more powerful than being the first to be right. It is possible that an agreement will eventually be reached between Ashley and the PIF; all the news that reaches us points in that direction; if so, it will be up to the Premier League to give it its blessing, which should take almost a month.

We are not there yet. At the moment, what is “made“, if we are to believe the sources – anonymous – who confided in the Times, is that the parties involved have made formal commitments from which they can no longer withdraw without incurring great financial loss. “The documents have been signed, and the security deposit [de 17 millions de livres, assurent certains] had been paid”, could one read in the British daily newspaper. The total amount of the transaction would be 300 million pounds, or 343 million euros, as the Financial Times announced it a week ago.

Saudi mutism

Of all this, there is no reason to doubt, although these famous “sources“seem to belong to only two of the four camps present at the most, namely that of the negotiator and potential shareholder Amanda Staveley, and that, perhaps, of the entourage of Mike Ashley, who is currently very confined far from St James’s Park, since it is indeed from his villa in Miami, his palace we should say, that the boss of the chain of stores Sports Direct negotiates the sale of the club for which he paid a little more than 130 million pounds in 2007.

Mike Ashley during Newcastle – Rochdale in the FA Cup on January 14, 2020

Credit: Getty Images

The Saudi fund PIF, supposed to acquire 80% of the club, and of which governor Yasir Othman al-Rumayyan is due to become president of Newcastle United FC, has remained absolutely silent on the negotiations. Just do we know that an LLC bearing the name of NCUK Investment Ltd, of which he is co-manager, was registered with the British companies register on January 21. The other co-manager, an accountant named Vincent Cheshire, is only there to take on a legal support role, as he does for dozens of other companies.

Another investor – up to 10% of the capital -, the real estate holding Reuben Brothers which associates the brothers Simon and David Reuben (both billionaires, both acquainted with Roman Abramovich and regulars of Stamford Bridge), was content to confirm his involvement in the discussions and stopped there. David’s son Jamie Reuben, 32 (and an ally of Boris Johnson in his campaign for London mayor in 2012), is expected to join the board of the ‘new’ Newcastle, who is already a member of the board of … Queen’s Park Rangers. “Should“. He too has kept his self-esteem.

Why so long?

Remains the third potential buyer, PCP Capital Partners, whose figurehead is Amanda Staveley, known, among other things, to have served as an intermediary for Sheikh Mansour during the acquisition of Manchester City by the United Arab Emirates, whose name had previously been linked to at least one other attempted buyout of Newcastle United, and which, in the fall of 2017, was also at the heart of the bizarre attempt to acquire Liverpool FC by an investor whose name was never disclosed , shortly before the same Staveley made a first £ 300million offer to Mike Ashley.

In 2008, Amanda Staveley had served as intermediary for Sheikh Mansour during the acquisition of Manchester City

Crédit: Other Agency

I could devote a book to Staveley’s journey in the business world as in football, a book that I would be unable to summarize in a simple chronicle; so I will stop here today, if only to add that Staveley, unlike the other actors in this play, knows how to be talkative when she considers it necessary to be.

The question I’m not the only one to ask myself is: why does this operation, which should be so simple, take so long? The Daily Mail Ashley said on Tuesday that Ashley was ready to release the news last week, but was prevented from doing so by the Saudis, due to “local custom“- I quote the English newspaper – which wants that one does not speak about a transaction before it has been concluded for good; which means, in this precise case, that it has received the approval of the Premier League.

Information taken from contacts who know the region very well, this “local custom“exists only in the mind of the journalist of Mail. “They [les Saoudiens] definitely don’t like to talk about details, I am told. And they like to be in a position that allows them to withdraw until the last minute. It’s not really a custom, it’s a negotiation tactic“. Which is not quite the same thing.

And why so many leaks, too, knowing that, in this environment, and in this type of transaction, any leak is orchestrated? But the operation should be “of the simplest“, indeed. Ashley, now hated by supporters, wants to sell, and not yesterday. The Saudis, who had scented on the side of Manchester United, also revolve around other clubs in other championships (including L1 is not excluded), wish to take the path opened by Qatar (the enemy) and the UAE (the ally) in the world of sport in general, and that of football in particular.

The means at their disposal are colossal, since the PIF weighs more than 320 billion dollars. Newcastle may not have won any trophy since the 1969 Fair Cities Cup, but they remain a name that matters, a jersey you recognize at first glance, one of those “sleeping giants” that you can wake up with millions of dollars. Keegan, Beardsley, Ginola and Shearer’s club. The club which, in any division whatsoever, will fill a stadium with 50,000 seats.

An ultimately exorbitant price?

See what Wolves has (re) become with the help of Chinese capital and the interpersonal skills of Jorge Mendes. Imagine what Newcastle could be. A seller who wants to sell, a buyer who wants to buy and who, in a depressed market, is willing to pay hundreds of millions for a football club that has spent the last few seasons fighting against being relegated; and will arguably be worth a fraction of that price in a few weeks, when English football finally realizes the enormity of the crisis into which it has been thrown.

And yet, all this drags on, when it could have been settled in the space of a few days, without the press making its soap opera since January, when it filtered for the first time that the Saudis, the Reuben brothers and Staveley were very interested in the Tyneside club. Could it be that these Saudis are telling themselves that the price they were given when the coronavirus was not yet disturbing the life of old Europe is quite exorbitant, given the colossal losses that English football will have to bear?

Could it be that a few who have a lot to lose if the deal does not go through ultimately redouble their efforts to get the media to say that it will be done, or better, that it is “done”?

Remember what Mike Ashley said when rumors of a purchase of his club were spread in 2017 (by a consortium of which Amanda Staveley was already the leading figure): “what is the reality in these kinds of transactions is that, once we talk about it [dans les médias], if it hasn’t already, it probably won’t happen.”

And when Ashley said “made“he could hear well”made“.

Not like Robinho’s transfer to Chelsea.

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