Mike Ashley is considering a shock sale of Newcastle United – a decade after he bought the club.
The billionaire is in talks with Chinese investors ahead of the club’s return to the Premier League.
And Ashley is understood to be considering all options – including a sale.
It is also possible that the Chinese group, which has not made a formal offer, could take a stake in United.
Other potential buyers and investors could also emerge in the coming days and weeks.
The development is surprising given that the club was previously off the market.
Ashley, the club’s billonaire owner, pledged to back manager Rafa Benitez heavily in the transfer market last month in the wake of the club’s promotion.
Newcastle have made no comment on reports of a potential sale.
However, tellingly, sources at the club have not dismissed the story, and the interest from China is understood to be serious and credible.
The club is set to benefit from the Premier League’s lucrative TV next season, and Ashley – who bought United for £134million in 2007 – could take the view that this is a good time to sell.
Ashley has made a series of loans to the club over the past 10 years, and these would need to be repaid by any buyer.
Manager Rafa Benitez, meanwhile, is pressing ahead with his summer recruitment.
The club has already signed winger Christian Atsu from Chelsea on a permanent deal, and Benitez and managing director Lee Charnley are pursuing a number of other targets.
And fans will want to know whether the ongoing discussions will have any impact on Newcastle’s transfer plans.
Ashley last month pledged to back Benitez with “every money” generated through promotion.