Well here we are again. More takeover speculation. I think I’d honestly prefer to be told outright that Ashley will own us for ever than the bi-annual claim that this could finally be “it”. It’s the constant hope that kills you.
I was in the pub on Saturday when news of the latest alleged attempt to free us of Mike Ashley broke. I checked my phone for team news for the Oxford game, and Twitter was on fire. This time it isn’t Peter Kenyon, or BZG, or a Mexican consortium.
This time it’s involving a familiar name, Amanda Staveley, the Yorkshire born, Dubai based business woman. She successfully brokered the deal for the Mansour family’s purchase of Manchester City, but couldn’t successfully buy us two years ago. She’s apparently heading up a takeover move with the business tycoon billionaire brothers David and Simon Reuben, who already have business and property interests in Newcastle.
Then if that wasn’t enough, these already ridiculously wealthy people are backed by PIF, the Public Investment Fund, which is Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salaman’s sovereign wealth fund, which depending on who you believe, gives them access to £30 BILLION to £400 gazillion. Cue the Mbappe memes……..? Not quite.
Instead of excitement and relief, I felt instantly weary and said out loud “not again”. Then I checked Twitter and Newsnow more thoroughly, and of course, despite every instinct telling me not to, I stupidly I got excited.
One of my best mates, who is a Liverpool fan, said “don’t read it. Don’t even bother, put your phone away, I don’t want to see you go through it again”. He was of course referring to last summer, the one which began with me stupidly thinking our future was going to be one of Rafa Benitez and a middle eastern war chest, and ended with Ashley still in charge, and newly appointed Steve Bruce being given special dispensation to re-sign Andy Carroll on a “pay as you play” deal. Sadly and stupidly I didn’t listen to my friend.
As usual, since Staveley’s name has re-emerged, every journalist familiar to Newcastle fans has commented and speculated, each with their own views and sources. As usual, those journalists whose views and sources aren’t so positive are called clueless and negative, and the journalists who’s views and sources are positive are called clueless. The hope is slightly justified. The cynicism is of course completely justified.
This time, instead of The Sun, it was the much more reputable Wall Street Journal that broke the news, and it’s worth pointing out that one of the authors of the article is currently writing a book about Mohammed bin Salaman. Since then it’s been all about contrasting reports and “exclusives” in every media outlet. Since that first report in the TWSJ, The Financial Times claim the lawyers who are currently auditing Ashley’s entire retail empire were recently told that Newcastle United “was disappearing from the books”. Sky Sports have confirmed “there is something in it”. We’ve even had journalists from the same news outlet giving different reports, see Jason Burt and Luke Edwards from the Telegraph below:
The Guardian claim it’s 90% likely, BBC are reporting it’s at an advanced stage, while The Times are reporting Mike Ashley is “incensed” that it has become public and has asked for 48 hours to consider the offer, but the Chronicle claimed no offer has been made.
Now their story this morning is that Ashley is due back in the UK to make a decision and Mark Douglas claims to have heard “positive noises on Sunday”.
Craig Hope of The Daily Mail has been somewhat conspicuous by his absence this time, despite jumping at the chance to go live on Talksport last summer to rubbish The Sun’s exclusive. Remember the one, that BZG had agreed a deal with Ashley? It was discredited only a few hours after the story broke. George Caulkin, perhaps the most reliable journalist when it comes to Newcastle, said yesterday on Twitter that “the salient parts of these reports aren’t disputed”. Let’s not forget he got the exclusive interview with Staveley after Ashley dismissed her as a “tyre kicker” two years ago, and he still claims to this day he saw the official bids.
On top of this we’ve had the setting up of a new company by Staveley. Project Zebra…..nothing new, remember Monochrome Acquisitions? If this is all nonsense again then lookout for Humbug PLC, Badger LTD and Gullible Skunk Trading Group in the next transfer window.
There’s also been other little teasing nuggets of info that may or may not mean anything, such as the cryptic tweet from Amit Bathia, the chairman of QPR. The QPR board includes David Reuben’s son Jamie, and in response to The Mirror reporting this story, he replied with this which was later deleted.
Sadly there is yet to be any screen shots of WhatsApp groups containing chief executives, or DJ’s claiming they have an inside scoop.
In short, something is going on but no one knows what. Journalists are scrambling to be the ones to confirm and break it or disclaim it first. The amount of them who claim their sources know nothing about it and say it isn’t close, but then say it being made public threatens the deal, feels like a complete oxymoron.
And then of course we have to factor in the next move of Ashley himself, certainly the biggest factor. The man who holds all of our dreams in his greedy little paws. As Caulkin himself alluded to recently on Twitter, Ashley is the only person who knows if it will go through. The last time he was involved with Staveley he pulled off a PR masterstroke. Despite the bid being confirmed, most Newcastle fans actually believed him and think Staveley is a time waster. It was essentially a smear campaign. One that surely earned Keith Bishop a pat on the head from his master.
On top of that, the amount of fans posting Ashley’s infamous quote that once it’s in the media it’s likely to not happen, is strange. This must be the only time they trust what he’s saying, and on that note, was it not Ashley himself who announced a deal with Peter Kenyon was close by personally announcing it on Sky Sports News? This, according to some was Ashley’s attempt to hurry it along. It’s enough to make your head hurt.
It’s going to be an interesting week. One that will probably end with more questions than answers, and all I wanted was to check the starting eleven for Oxford….