Mike Ashley keeps an open mind on Newcastle’s sale price as lawyers sift through expressions of interest

Mike Ashley watches from the St James's Park stand.
Mike Ashley watches from the St James's Park stand.

Mike Ashley has NOT set a fixed asking price for Newcastle United.

The Magpies’ billionaire owner is looking to sell the club a decade after he bought it for £134million.

Four potential buyers have signed non-disclosure agreements with the Premier League club, but none of them are understood close to agreeing a deal.

And Ashley issued a statement on Monday “clarifying his intentions” in an attempt to attract more interest in ninth-placed United, which has suffered two relegations during his turbulent ownership.

Lawyers acting for Ashley have fielded a number of enquiries since he formally put the club for sale.

It will take some time for them to sift through the various expressions of interest.

Financier Amanada Staveley – who watched Newcastle’s home game against Liverpool earlier this month and informally met club officials – is considering a move for a Premier League club.

Ashley – who is willing to accept “deferred payments” – hopes to agree a sale by Christmas, though that proposed timescale could prove optimistic.

If the process does drag on into the New Year, Ashley will be asked to sanction investment in January’s transfer window.

Sources close to Ashley indicate that he is prepared to spend in the New Year, though supporters, understandably, are sceptical.

Manager Rafa Benitez and his staff are identifying potential January targets, but they do not know how much money will be available, given his record on transfers.

Ultimately, the timeline will be determined by how far apart Ashley and potential buyers are in their respective valuations of United.

Reports have claimed that Ashley values the club at around £400million – that figure is seen as excessive by some experts, even when the Premier League’s multi-billion pound TV deals are factored in – but he is said to have a more open mind about a sale price.

That said, Ashley is determined to sell at a substantial profit.

Ashley is also understood to be keen to secure assurances about investment from any prospective buyer.

The statement, issued by St James Holdings Limited, stated that the club needs “clear direction and a path to a bright and successful future”.

Under Ashley, the club, which used to regularly compete in Europe, has stagnated thanks to under-investment and poor appointments.

Ashley’s statement was welcomed by fans and former players.