Gateshead FC sold to Hong Kong-based businessman Dr Ranjan Varghese

Vanarama National League club Gateshead are under new foreign ownership for the first time in their history.

Gateshead boss Steve Watson.
Gateshead boss Steve Watson.

Current owners Richard and Julie Bennett have confirmed that a deal has been completed to sell the club to Hong Kong-based businessman Dr Ranjan Varghese.

This is the second time that Dr Varghese has tried to buy the Tynesiders after a deal fell through after failing to satisfy National League criteria in May.

There have been no such issues this time, with the deal already ratified by the National League and the Football Association.

Gateshead confirmed that Dr Varghese – an experienced businessmen currently on the board of Hong Kong-based Steel Ships Limited - will take over as chairman and his associate Michael Williams has joined the club’s board as Operations Director.

The news will be a boost for Heed manager Steve Watson, who has been working on a reduced budget throughout the summer.

The former Newcastle United defender has signed a number of players including Magpies Under-23s captain Jack Hunter and former Hull City midfielder Greg Olley and Middlesbrough striker Luke Armstrong has joined on loan.

A number of key players have departed but Watson managed to retain the services of JJ O’Donnell, Fraser Kerr and Scott Barrow.

The deal brings an end to the Bennetts three-year ownership of the club and former chairman Richard Bennett believes it is “fantastic news” for every connected.

In a club statement he said: "Both Julie and myself are delighted to have completed a deal ahead of the forthcoming season, the acquisition of the club by Dr Varghese is fantastic news for everyone and comes at just the right time.

"The transfer has taken a while to complete but it has been worth the effort, gaining both National League and FA approval ahead of the acquisition has meant Dr Varghese can now press on with his team and implement their business plan.

“We would like to thank everyone associated with the club, staff, volunteers and of course the supporters for all of their help and support over the last three years, we’ve had a great time at Gateshead and only wish we had been able to bring more success for everyone.

"We would like to wish everyone at the club all the best for the future."

Dr Varghese was unavailable for comment and Gateshead confirmed that there would be no further comment at the moment.

Neal Molloy, Associate Solicitor at Peter Millican Law, advised Richard and Julie Bennett on the sale of Gateshead Football Club, he said: “We’ve worked closely with all parties to ensure that this sale has progressed efficiently and smoothly.

"The best interests of the club and the fans have been at the core of the deal, which we are pleased to have completed, allowing the club to focus now on the new season ahead.”

The sale ends the Bennett's three-year tenure as owners of the National League club, overseeing 9th, 8th and 17th place finishes as well as an FA Trophy semi-final.