Newcastle United For Sale!
Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has officially put the club up for sale and wants a deal to be done by Christmas.
It has been known since the summer that the sports retail tycoon wants to end his 10-year association with the Magpies but, after a series of ploys failed to yield any serious interest – including a leaked story of potential Chinese investment – he has taken the step of releasing a statement confirming his intentions.
In a bid to speed up the process, Ashley has offered any potential buyers the chance to defer payments, although the asking price remains in the region of £400million. However, his ‘buy now, pay later’ concession has revealed just how desperate the 53-year-old is to get rid after a troubled decade on Tyneside.
In June, it was reported that Chinese investors wanted to buy the club. Sportsmail has since learned that was a tactic to flush out real interest. That, though, has not been forthcoming and, while the appearance of financier Amanda Staveley at St James’ Park a fortnight ago led to much speculation, the club has heard nothing from her since.
In the meantime, court papers have revealed how HMRC raided St James’ Park in April because they feared evidence of ‘systematic abuse of the tax system’ would be destroyed had the club been forewarned.
That investigation is ongoing. Ashley, though, will use the presence of manager Rafa Benitez to tempt would-be suitors. The Spaniard angered the owner during the transfer window when he repeatedly claimed that he had been misled over investment in the playing squad.
Ashley would have sacked previous managers for such public outbursts but, given his desire to sell the club, he has always been very conscious of Benitez’s global appeal. The boss will be hoping that new owners do emerge before his own relationship with Ashley deteriorates further.