Neil Mitchell – the former chairman of the NUST – has provided an interesting update this week on where things could be on a potential takeover Newcastle United – insisting that there’s ‘always’ interest in NUFC.
We, of course, have been here before and anything like this fans will now take with a dose of skepticism, but Neil – who is now based in Dubai – provides an interesting insight on why he thinks a takeover hasn’t happened and what is needed for Mike Ashley to finally sell up.
Here are some of his quotes from his recent guest piece in The Chronicle, starting with what he knows about the interested parties:
I’ve been asked many times why I am always upbeat on there being buyers out there and why I believe it is a matter of time before the club changes hands. Well it’s simple. Steve (Wraith) and I can publicly say in the last ten years we are aware of at least six – yes six – potential deals that have been discussed, some progressing as far as due diligence, NDAs and even further.
How do we know? Well in one way or another we have had contact with people directly involved in four of them!
There is always interest in Newcastle. There are potential buyers out there. It’s well known Newcastle is up for sale.
The smart buyers do much more than tyre kick and look at the books. The smart ones, the ones I believe have the very best intentions, reach out to fans and fan groups. They want to get the feel for the club in more ways than any set of accounts can.
They want to understand the fans, their hopes, their dreams and their aspirations for themselves and not be swayed by lazy and frankly inaccurate portrayals of high expectation and the rampant negative fantascism spread by certain parts of the media.
We know Staveley and PCP made contact with fan groups as they outlined their exciting vision for Newcastle, including investment off the pitch as well as on it. As fans we all hope this deal can be re-visited; so why did it fall down and what hasn’t Newcastle sold?
Neil thinks it’s Mike Ashley, like we all do by now, he is the common factor in the numerous failed attempts to get the club to change hands. He explains why here, calling him the ‘least willing seller’ he’s ever come across:
There is, however, one common theme in how these bids progress: Mike Ashley. He is possibly the least willing seller of a football club I have ever come across.
He seems to find a way to be the Becher’s Brook in the course of any sale. His opening gambit is often a ‘show me the money’ move – asking potential buyers to buy a box for five years to prove they have the funds. They want potential buyers to pay a deposit to get around the table – that sort of thing.
If that isn’t in the mix one tactic that always seems to come into play is the moving goalposts of asking price. Be that publicly, as seemed to happen with PCP, or privately where once a bidder is at the table an excuse is found to ramp up the price as negotiations are started.
Then there are always the little details. What income stream does he want to continue to get from the new owner? Does he want free advertising for a period? Does he want control of merchandise for a certain time post sale? There is also movement of club assets between divisions of MASH (Ashley’s businesses grouped together) which makes it difficult to tell if what you are buying is the whole entity that he originally bought? (Hint: it isn’t).
We all know Sports Direct is Ashley’s main focus, which is why focusing protests on this and not the ground will yield more success. But him wanting to keep free advertising as part of any new ownership is rightfully tuned down by potential buyers. Why would they promote another brand for free and one with such a negative public image?
Ashley needs to cut ties with Newcastle and the more pressure we can put on him as fans, can only accelerate the process.
What do you make of the update from Neil? Are we still clutching to straws with hope of a takeover?