A £300 million (US$375 million) Saudi bid is currently at the consideration stage, in a deal which would see the country’s vast sovereign Public Investment Fund (PIF) take an 80 percent stake in the North East club, with UK financier Amanda Staveley – who is brokering the deal – acquiring 10 percent and the remaining 10 percent going to British billionaires the Reuben brothers.
The signs are that a deal is edging closer after a deposit was paid, although the takeover has been met with criticism in the media as well as human rights groups over the Saudis’ track record.
The Saudis’ bitter regional rivals Qatar have also attempted to scupper the bid by citing alleged Saudi pirate broadcasts of Premier League matches, the regional rights to which are owned by Doha-based broadcaster beIN Sports.
And should the Saudis fail, US financier-turned-media tycoon Mauriss is ready to step in, according to The Mirror.
Mauriss made his fortune through his Credit America Corporation empire, which he sold in 2010. He now runs ClearTV, which operates television network platforms serving airports and other facilities such as hospitals.
Citing a source close to Mauriss, The Mirror claims that the US tycoon was already in touch with current Newcastle owner Mike Ashley before the Saudis stepped in, and was willing to offer £350 million.
“There is the promise of significant investment not only in the squad but also the club’s academy. It’s a fantastic business plan,” the source was quoted as saying.
Mauriss apparently sees similarities with Newcastle’s Premier League rivals Liverpool, where American investment through the Fenway Sports Group founded by John Henry and Tom Werner has helped the club win the Champions League and put them on course for a first league title in 30 years.
“The investor has seen the way Liverpool’s owners have harnessed themselves with the local community and made it a team effort with everyone pulling in the same direction,” the source said.
“[Mauriss] has studied the way his fellow countrymen Werner and Henry have successfully rejuvenated Liverpool and made them one of the world’s dominant forces.”
Mauriss is reportedly “ready and willing” to step in as one of two rival American offers for Newcastle, should the Saudi deal collapse. The other US interest has not yet been named.
It remains unclear, however, why the initial talks between Ashley and Mauriss did not progress given that Mauriss appeared willing to meet the £350 million asking price, which has since been knocked down due to the coronavirus crisis.
Despite being placed at the center of a supposed moral dilemma posed by the arrival of new Saudi owners, the sentiment among Newcastle fans is largely of relief that Ashley will departing after 13 years of anger at his reign.
Widely resented, Ashley stands accused of using Newcastle merely as a vehicle for the promotion of his own commercial interests while failing to invest in the changes need to push the club into being a Premier League force such as they were during the 1990s.