Exciting and confusing at times in almost equal measures. The takeover talk has gripped the Geordie faithful and the football world over the last few weeks.
We’ve been told we are living in a ‘fantasy land’ that it won’t be done. That it won’t happen when both parties have said they want it concluded. Southern journalists were as happy as ever to wave the delusional Geordies banner once again without saying anything of substance.
I can’t pretend it wasn’t enjoyable getting the confirmation of the bid. Finally we saw a light at the end of the tunnel! Not so much for personal reasons, but more to do with finally hearing something more concrete to confirm our theories. Sure, the bid doesn’t mean it’s done, but it does indicate clear progress and a definitive point in order to prove or disprove earlier opinions and theories.
My theory was that we were further along with the takeover than some of the local press were reporting. I just couldn’t prove it. There was practically no air time given from the FA confirming they are ‘well aware’ of the potential change of ownership, to Staveley being spotted at Wembley during the England v Brazil friendly. The significance was played down. That was surprising considering reports highlighting that the FA approval was the final stage in the process.
Why was it played down? It didn’t fit with a rhetoric that we were still in the due diligence period. The bid must have come as a real shock, considering the bid was made when reports about historical documents was being examined. Which seemed to further convince readers of a lengthy due diligence period ahead.
The timing and progress to date, although interesting, doesn’t answer the overriding question. How motivated is Ashley to sell and PCP to buy?
Below I have summarised my thoughts and opinions on Ashley’s stance below:
- Perfect timing. The club is now at the highest value on minimal investment. The risk of not selling now is far too great even for a gambling man.
- A world class manager in Rafa Benitez is still at the helm. Rumours from people I trust have said Rafa has been involved all the way through the process. Benitez has also put further pressure on Ashley that he would leave if the takeover did not happen by January.
- Ashley’s said as much himself that he wants it done by Christmas and that “if somebody wants to come along and fund Newcastle with a nought on the end, I will not stand in their way.”
- He’s unhappy with the negative press since being at the club which has ramped up recently with HMRC case and exploitation of sports direct workers. This is a man who does not seek the limelight and this negative press is damaging.
- Ashley has cash flow issues meaning a lot of business has to be been done through share sales which are inconvenient and restrictive. MA also has other investment ventures for example property and Debenhams he wants to take advantage of.
- He stands to make a profit now after stupidly not doing his own due diligence a decade ago when buying the club. A profit which is very much reliant on him selling now.
- Staveley and PCP have huge financial clout and messing this group around could be very detrimental to his reputation when conducting future business.
Staveley’s and PCP’s position is less complicated:
- Looking to invest in a premier league club. “The experience I gained (from brokering City’s deal in 2008) has been instrumental in preparing me for the investment I wish to make now in the same league.” National article 26/10/17.
- Staveley was rebuffed at the “11th hour” in her attempt to buy Liverpool. A fee rising to £1.5 billion was reported and rejected by Liverpool before she switched her interest to Newcastle.
- She has publically valued the club via Reuters at around £300 million and has recently bid close to that as part of a structured deal.
- Report through the same media of her wanting the deal complete by December to allow squad reinforcement plans to be carried out running up to January’s transfer window.
To give some very interesting context to PCP’s and Staveley’s interest I will focus on two articles. The first being The National article on footballs economic miracle. The second that looks into the privatisation of Saudi state assets and how it will fuel the counties sports boom. The first article offers insight into who is investing in the bid:
“It is understood that there are Gulf investors in the PCP Capital Partners consortium interested in Newcastle United, alongside Chinese money, and that the belief is that the experience of Manchester City can be replicated on Tyneside.”
Further investigation into the Middle East’s huge ambitions in sport over the last decade, are very interesting as well. Qatar have been at the forefront on the global conversation in sport over recent years *cough* winning the world cup bid for 2022, investments in horse racing and F1, it seems Qatar is never far from the epicentre of global sporting developments.
The article talks of Qatar’s neighbours, Saudi Arabia, being “passive” as it watched Qatar enter into global sporting conversations. That is now changing after the appointment of Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The young prince has recently been anointed crown prince to the absolute monarchy and he appears to be changing Saudi’s outlook on sport announcing in October 2017 that women would be allowed to attend football matches and a vision statement to:
“Encourage widespread and regular participation in sports and athletic activities, working in partnership with the private sector to establish additional dedicated facilities and programmes. We aspire to excel in sports and be among the leaders in selected sports regionally and globally”
As part of the process, the following were identified as being particularly important: grassroots development of sports and sporting infrastructure; development of women’s sport; privatisation and promotion of football and other sports clubs: and the commercialisation of trademarks and logos.
It is perfectly conceivable this relatively new shift in attitudes from Saudi Arabia and the “economic miracle” in football could mean this new prince – or certainly his family’s wealth – are invested in the takeover of Newcastle United along with Chinese and possibly UAE capital.
Where we stand today.
The takeover story is moving quickly. The media have swarmed all over the latest news with varying pieces of information being circulated. We have been told it was a “take it or leave it” offer received which turned out to be untrue but that negotiations are ongoing. What Ashley’s magic number is, only he knows. I highly doubt Staveley would enter negotiations without knowing the ballpark figure he was looking for.
My opinion is the second reported offer is correct and that it is currently under £300 million which will likely be rejected. Like in all negotiations, you never start off with your best offer and that seems to be the case here.
Is this Staveley publicising the bid in order to force Ashely’s hand? Quite possibly in my opinion as it certainly doesn’t fit Ashley’s modus operandi (MO). To inform media during negotiations plus there have been claims in he was “furious” about the leak. This won’t derail the process with negotiations ongoing.
The Guardian earlier further explained the next part of the process:
“Should the parties reach an agreement in principle, they would enter into a contract of exclusivity. That would represent the starting gun for a month-long period of due diligence during which serious haggling over the final price and a myriad of contractual sale clauses would really get under way.”
“An exclusivity deal would also trigger the Premier League subjecting Staveley and PCP Capital Partners to its “fit and proper person test”
In addition, The National broke a piece earlier today, stating there had been two offers. The first was a bid of £350M paid in installments over three years. The second was below the £300M mark, but paid in full. The second bid would have enabled Mike Ashley to take the money and leave it all instantly.
The bid is very much a positive sign as negotiations get under way. I was personally not aware of the additional period of due diligence described by the Guardian. However, news of a bid being agreed in principle and entering a contract of exclusivity where the FA conduct the fit and proper person tests, may not be a long way away.
The lower offer is an opening offer which will likely be rejected, but negotiations will be ongoing. The investors have grand plans on and off the pitch. Newcastle has been identified as the perfect project similar to Man City in 2008. Both Ashley and Staveley want the deal concluded before Christmas. There has been no indication from either party that it won’t be concluded by then.
We are just under five weeks away from Christmas now and I like many toon fans only want one present, a takeover of our beloved club and the chance to dream again.
A big week lies ahead I feel.