Newcastle United takeover: Deal imminent after breakthrough
A long-awaited takeover of Newcastle United is close to being agreed – after a breakthrough in the Middle East.
The fate of a proposed £300million-plus sale to a Saudi Arabia-backed consortium was set to be decided by a week-long arbitration hearing in January.
However, an end to the Gulf kingdom’s four-year ban on Qatari broadcaster beIN Sports, the Premier League rights-holder for the Middle East North Africa region, has paved the way for an agreement on the separation between the Saudi state and the Public Investment Fund (PIF), its sovereign wealth fund.
BeIN Sports had “lobbied” against the takeover on the grounds of piracy. This was highlighted in a Competition Appeal Tribunal hearing last week by a QC representing United owner Mike Ashley’s St James Holdings.
"At the time Premier League was reaching its decision, beIN was in the midst of negotiations with Premier League for another three-year rights deal,” said Daniel Jowell QC at a jurisdiction hearing.
"It was very publicly reported at the time that beIN media group actively lobbied the Premier League against the takeover of Newcastle."
BeIN Sports objections to the takeover have now been “settled”, according to the broadcaster’s Premier League presenter Richard Keys, a previous critic of the proposed deal.
“Qatari objections to the Newcastle takeover all settled,” tweeted Keys. “Piracy was always the issue. (Pirate broadcaster) BeoutQ turned off. BeIN illegal ban in Saudi ended. Expect lightening news now on what happens next. It’ll be interesting to see who eventually emerges leading the consortium.”
A PIF source outlined the consortium’s view on the proposed deal last year after they withdrew.
“This was a very passionate thing for us – it wasn’t a vanity play,” said the source.
“This is an investment firm focused on sustainable returns, and bringing something back to the people of Saudi Arabia for any international investment it makes. All of that fit with Newcastle.
“We had the £300million price and an additional £250million had in our business plan to invest in the club over the next five years – and an additional amount to invest in the community.
“That was what was the selling point for us, the passion of the fans, the community, the fact that we could help build that community and rebuild the club.”