Following yesterday’s crushing news that the Saudis bid to buy Newcastle United had collapsed, The Athletic’s George Caulkin has released his in-depth chat with an “absolutely devastated” and “angry” Amanda Staveley on Thursday night.
Jumping straight to it, here’s what a ‘teary’ Staveley began with, revealing her devastation at the breakdown of a deal she’s so reluctant to let go of – believing they are the ‘only partners’ for Newcastle United:
“I’m absolutely devastated,”
“I’m so upset, I don’t know how to express it. I’m heartbroken. I can barely speak.
“I believe we weren’t just the right partners for Newcastle, we were the only partners.”
“I don’t know, I don’t want to give up. What would you do?”
Staveley then revealed some of the Premier League’s demands, giving an insight into the “impossible situation” the PIF were placed in:
“The Premier League wanted the country, Saudi, to become a director of the football club. That’s what this is about.
“They were effectively saying ‘PIF wouldn’t be the ultimate beneficial owner, we believe it’s actually the government, therefore we want the country to become a director’, which puts them in an impossible situation.
“They feel they weren’t wanted by the Premier League.
“I hope the fans realise what’s happened, that this is a lot more complicated than it might seem.
“I want them to understand the whole thing about the directorship, that it would be impossible for a state to become a director.
“The Premier League made it so hard. It would be unprecedented. No country has ever become a director of a club. It’s ridiculous.“
The Yorkshire-born businesswoman then referred to the lack of clarity they offered regarding timescales, also urging Newcastle fans to take a stand against the Premier League after their unfair ruling of this potential buyout:
“They were saying ‘you know what, we won’t reject you but we won’t approve you either, so we’ll just sit here for month after month’.
“They could have told us all this before we exchanged.
“It’s up to the fans now. Because if the fans want this back on then they’re going to have to go to the Premier League and say this isn’t fair.”
To rub some salt into the wounds, Staveley then regrettably revealed their plans for the club had the Premier League approved their bid, also explaining why she ‘fell in love’ with NUFC and was so determined to awaken an ‘incredible club’ in ‘desperate’ need of investment:
“We had a plan for £250 million of investment in the club over the first few years, as much as we could put in,”
“And on top of that, we had massive plans to invest in the city, in housing, everything. We talked with the council.
“Newcastle are the last great untapped club. The last great club with so much potential to grow and improve and with a fanbase who were already there and who wanted it so much.”
“I fell in love with Newcastle. I fell in love with the passion, the fans. It was just this incredible club.
“And I knew that with investment and nurturing it could become even better. It needed TLC. It needed a patient owner.
“It desperately needs investment.
“That day we first walked into St James’…it felt like we had come home.
“We knew what they needed. We wanted it, too. And I know we could have done it.”
Staveley and her husband, Mehrdad Ghodoussi, then discussed their bid and Mike Ashley’s role in it all, insisting he is NOT to blame following the collapse of this £300m deal:
AS: “Please don’t think there was any argument between Mike and I because there wasn’t,”
“All this **** about Mike and I not getting on…We get on very well.
“There’s no issue with Mike. None at all. We had a deal agreed. Yes, there was a bit more money on the table, but we agreed it.”
“Mike is as disappointed as we are. He’s devastated, too.”
MG: “When things went public the first time, it became hard at various points, but ultimately we got beyond that,”
“We agreed a deal with him. And yes, he played around with numbers, but we were happy to pay what we needed to pay. The reason the deal failed is because of the Premier League not because of Mike.
“That’s really important.”
A firm response was then issued by Staveley when Caulkin asked what they made of ‘rival interest’ from US bidder Henry Mauriss:
“There aren’t other bids.
A damning assessment considering some believe Mauriss is the ‘plan B’ option for Mike Ashley now the Saudi-backed bid has fallen through…
Staveley then responded to suggestions that the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham were against the deal, stating “We know that other clubs briefed heavily against it. Because they were jealous.”
Ghodoussi then revealed how they struck up a partnership with the PIF, explaining why this was nothing to do with sports-washing:
“When we first tried to buy Newcastle, we tried to bring in a Chinese partner, but we realised that it’s not just about buying a club, it’s about being able to invest in that club, it’s about being able to invest in the community, the academy and the infrastructure. That takes a lot.
“You need a strong partner to be able to do that. And the reason we went out and approached PIF — it wasn’t PIF wanting to buy Newcastle — and put a deal in front of them was because they saw and understood and believed in our vision.
“It wasn’t about sports-washing. If they wanted to do do that, they could have gone out and bought Manchester United for £3 billion and got 500 million supporters overnight.
“It was a passion from Yasir (Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the PIF), who is an avid sportsman. It fitted into Saudi Vision 2030, where they are diversifying into new investment, building relationships with communities.
“They genuinely felt a kinship to Newcastle. We presented it in a way where they genuinely believed in it and saw it as a long-term project to develop the club, to invest in the community and the academy — that was so important.“
He then went on to discuss how they’ll react to this setback following years of time, effort and spending, also sending a heartfelt message to NUFC fans who he knows will be hit most by the devastating news:
“Amanda and I will get up and dust ourselves down. We’ve lived and breathed this for three years.
“We’ve suffered a loss financially, as well, but what is heartbreaking and really upsetting — and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, as does Amanda — is what this will mean for the fans.
“For some of them, this is their life. They go to work, they come home and the one silver lining is watching Newcastle at St James’.
“Growing up, it’s the passion they put into the club.”
An emotional Staveley was then asked ‘what now?’ by Caulkin – a tough question given she’d spent months preparing and practicing the release of an exciting mission statement, highlighting the genuine confidence that existed over this deal:
“I’m trying very hard to understand,”
“Today is probably not the right day … I need to figure out if there is any route through this.”
“Even now, if the Premier League came to us and said ‘we will approve you’ we would do this deal tomorrow, all three parties of the consortium,”
“Mike has agreed, we’ve agreed, the Reubens, PIF,”
“The only reason the deal won’t get done is because the Premier League won’t pass it. Everybody is just so, so sad.”
Last but not least, here’s what she had to say when asked if there is any hope of resurrecting the deal she and her carefully selected consortium were so eager to complete:
“I don’t know. I just don’t know.
“I don’t want to give up, but I can’t do it on my own. I’ve tried.
“I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried. You need investment.
“You can’t just buy a club with no investment behind you. You need £600-700 million minimum, to do a deal like this. That was all in place.”
“I can’t believe it,”
Hard to bear. Whilst there’s a glimpse of hope that this may not be over yet, her comments only add more frustration and sadness to what’s become a sorry situation at St James’ Park.
The Athletic have also revealed an in-depth list of claims that ‘multiple sources connected to the consortium’ have released following their decision to pull out of the £300m deal:
- The Premier League gave them “private assurances” before the deal was signed and again in mid-April that “approval would be forthcoming soon” before the mood music changed in June
- After being asked by the Premier League to provide information about PIF’s independence from the Saudi state, there were guarantees “from the highest possible levels that there would be no state interference in the running of the club”
- They believe the Premier League has been “unduly influenced by politically motivated attacks from third parties” and “repeatedly moved the goalposts and the process was devoid of transparency or objectivity”
- They suspect some of their top-flight rivals, believed to be Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in particular, were strongly against the takeover and made their opposition evident to administrators
- The “final straw” was the Premier League’s refusal to put a timeline on a decision, whether rejection or approval
- The decision to pull out was agreed by all parties but led by PIF
- Ashley asked for more money after the June 26 completion deadline had expired, raising the £300 million price, although Staveley told The Athletic “that is absolutely not the issue”
- The Sports Direct retailer is now “distraught” that the deal has collapsed
- According to their business plan, which was submitted to the Premier League, PIF had committed to investing an initial £250 million directly into the club, plus more into the city and region, including infrastructure projects
- Henry Mauriss, the American chief executive of ClearTV Media, is not understood to be a serious rival to buy the club
- Staveley was so convinced that a deal was imminent she took media training lessons, while members of her football operation house-hunted in the region
- The consortium has lost their deposit, believed to be around £17 million, which would have been refunded had the Premier League rejected the deal
- There is still a slim possibility the takeover can be revived. “I don’t know if this is the end of it,” they said.
An excruciating end to a four-month saga that’s left our fanbase in tatters and our club in a complete state of crisis.
Just when it felt like our saviour had arrived, it feels like we’ll be stuck with Mike Ashley for another year yet.
Let’s pray we haven’t just waved goodbye to the ambitious owners our club (and city!) have desperately needed for well over a decade.
We live in hope, but even that is wearing thin now after yet another false dawn.