Ashley had claimed that a sale before the festive period was a "possibility".
However, the club will still be in Ashley's hands when the transfer window opens next month – and it is unclear if manager Rafa Benitez, out of contract next summer, will get the backing he wants.
There are understood to be four groups interested in taking over the club, which is 14th in the Premier League.
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And The Mirror have revealed a "stumbling block" to deal.
It's reported that Ashley wants to "retain an advertising presence at St James’s Park for his Sports Direct brand".
St James's Park has a large number of adverts for Sports Direct, the firm founded and majority-owned by Ashley, who bought the club 11 years ago.
The company has only recently started paying for this advertising.