Bin Zayed Group's failed Newcastle United takeover: Claims, counterclaims, false dawns & misplaced hope – the inside story

It framed a summer – the will they, won’t they takeover saga involving Newcastle United and mystery gulf buyers the Bin Zayed Group.

Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 11:45 am
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 17: A general view of the Burj Khalifa, the worlds tallest tower as morning breaks over the city skyline of Dubai on November 17, 2013 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Dubai is recovering from its slump during the global financial meltdown. The government has recently released figures that show that construction and tourism and the non-oil economy are once again growing. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

They seemed sure the deal would go through, they even said it was done – but here we are, still sitting in a world of Sports Direct signs, no Rafa Benitez and Mike Ashley at the top of the tree.

It was an episode which gripped the Geordie nation. Update, any update, was the cry on social media. But sadly, for many, it turned out to be yet another summer of misplaced hope.

These false dawns are all too common on Tyneside, whether with or without Ashley – we really all should not better by now.

Rafa Benitez left Newcastle United on June 30. He penned a deal with Dalian Yifang within 48 hours.

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So what really happened, were the investors real, did they have the money and what did they say about the fiasco?

Here our writer Liam Kennedy takes a look at the ins and outs of what was another busy summer on the takeover front – even if little actually got done.

A TIMELINE

Sunday, May 26

Jose Mourinho was reportedly BZG's preferred option to take over from Benitez.

The Sun published an exclusive from writer Justin Allen.

They very strongly claim Newcastle has been sold to the Bin Zayed Group in a £350million deal.

Sources at St James’s Park give a “no comment”, which was to become a common theme.

Monday, May 27

A picture taken on January 8, 2018 shows the skyline of Dubai with the Burj al-Arab in the foreground and Burj Khalifa (L) in the background. / AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

The Bin Zayed Group sends their first of three statements during the process.

It reads: “Representatives of His Highness Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nahyan are in discussions with Mike Ashley and his team, about the proposed acquisition of Newcastle United Football Club". The group goes on to allege that they have already "agreed terms" with Ashley and are "working hard to complete the transaction at the earliest opportunity".

Tuesday, May 28

Sources at NUFC confirm the statement is genuine.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02: Mike Ashley, Newcastle United owner and Lee Charnley look on prior to the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United at Wembley Stadium on February 2, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

On the record the Premier League and Newcastle United remain firm in their “no comment” stance.

Wednesday, May 29

A second statement from the group arrives, further clarifying their stance.

The Bin Zayed Group's managing director Midhat Kidwai said: "Terms have been agreed between us and Mike Ashley; these terms have been reflected in a document, signed by both parties, which has been forwarded to the Premier League. The proof of funds statement was forwarded to Mike Ashley’s lawyers on April 17, 2019. The so called fit-and-proper Premier League process is a standard procedure which will take time, and we are doing all we can to assist the Premier League during this process. We feel the need to clarify this point in order for the fans and the general public to understand the timelines."

Thursday, May 30

It’s established through sources in the Middle East that Sheikh Khaled – BZG’s head – is a second cousin of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour, after plenty of claims and counter-claims to the contrary.

Friday, May 31

Unofficial confirmation comes out that Newcastle and BZG have signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

Sunday, June 2

The Daily Mail claims the Premier League are yet to start the owners' and directors' test because no formal deal has been agreed, despite claims to the contrary from the group.

The Sunday Mirror suggests Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger are preferred candidates to replace Rafa Benitez, whose deal ends on June 30.

Wednesday, June 19

Dubai journalist and presenter Peter Redding went on the record to say: “ Given his wealth you only have to look at the company's trading and profits. Here in the UAE local business people do not speak of wealth it is known as Haram (not allowed). But it is definitely safe to say he is a serious player.”

Sunday, June 30

Mike Ashley has blamed the Bin Zayed Group for Rafa Benitez’s departure at Newcastle United, according to a report.

The 59-year-old, unhappy with the offer made by Ashley, had refused to sign a one-year deal.

Benitez’s contract comes to an end.

Monday, July 8

The Bin Zayed Group have issued a fresh statement on their efforts to takeover Newcastle – this time, bizarrely, through Redding.

It read: "Both parties have worked diligently in finalising a deal, none more so than ourselves. We have completed every aspect required in a takeover process. Press claims of no bids or Premier League approval processes are simply untrue.

“The current owners have cooperated amicably throughout this process, and if a deal is not forthcoming, it will not be due to lack of effort from both parties.”

Saturday, July 20

Claims from the financial publications and the City that the Bin Zayed Group’s bid will be linked in to US hedge funds. This is denied privately by sources close to the bid.

Friday, July 26

Mike Ashley speaks exclusively with the Daily Mail about his Newcastle ownership. He claims he is a willing seller and questions BZG’s intentions.

He said: "The last bid, the one from UAE, he's a prince and he's got £38bn or £100bn, all these numbers — well, why would you even care what you're paying then?

"What difference would £10m either way make?

"You would want speed, you would want certainty, you would want the keys and to get on with it.

"I will not stand in the way of Newcastle United.

"I will not stop that, if it happens. If such a person comes along I will think I've done quite a good job and I will want to keep going to watch them. I'll keep a box, because my parents will demand it.”

Who are BZG?

Sheikh Khaled heads up the BZG investment group, who are based in Dubai.

He is president of the UAE Sailing and Rowing Federation and is said to have always had a keen interest in football and loves the Premier League.

He is also founder of the Bin Zayed Group - a leading group of businesses with diverse interests in the local and international markets.

A member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, he graduated in business administration from Boston University, and completed a PHD in Finance from Michigan State University.

What is the group’s estimated worth?

His personal wealth is unclear but his family's wealth is estimated to be around £150billion.

Have the group had any football dealing previously?

No, however he did attempt to buy Liverpool for £2billion in August.

It is claimed by the Daily Mail that the takeover fell through as he was unable to provide proof of funds or £25m deposit/down payment.

Were they serious about the takeover?

Initial reports claimed Sheikh Khaled wanted to keep Rafa Benitez to stay on as manager and hand the club a significant transfer budget.

As we all know, they never even got close.

While they claimed to have

It has been suggested by sources this was another Amanda Staveley type publicity exercise. Counter-claims from Dubai say otherwise.

Actions speak louder than words though – and A LOT of people have been talking about the previously unheard of Bin Zayed Group.

Were there others interested?

Throughout the process two or three other parties were in conversations but it is not known how far these talks went.

One of those groups was Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

The billionaire was put off buying Newcastle United by Mike Ashley’s asking price.

He subsequently went on to buy Nice.

What was the knock on impact of the takeover talk?

It really is impossible to quantify how much of an impact this constant uncertainty had on United – only time will tell on that front.

What it did 100% do is knock their summer business back. Benitez hung on in hope a deal would be done, it wasn’t and with his final say still counting until the first day of July, United were hamstrung. It was, of course, a lot of their own making.

Players – and a manager – did not arrive until late. With little time to bed in, they’ve been thrown into a Premier League season, undercooked in many ways.

They’ve definitely not sunk, but there are equally doubts about whether they will swim as well.

What next for Newcastle United?There is an acceptance on Tyneside that Ashley is here to stay – the man himself thinks so too.

The summer has seen a shift into a new era at United, gone are the days that fans hold hope of Ashley leaving – this has always been the case.

Now fans are accepting their fate and it shows on the terraces.

There is no doubt takeover talks will come and go – and false dawns will appear.

Ashley will leave one day – and we will probably only know about at the last minute. Fans hope that’s sooner rather than later.