A bid of c.£300m has been made to purchase Newcastle United from Mike Ashley. The bid has come from Amanda Staveley, leading the PCP group behind which we are led to believe are a consortia of serious money people, we think from the Middle East. No-one seriously believes there are any other interested parties and Staveley’s bid is the only show in town. We learn that offer has been rejected.
Newcastle United has under-performed for a decade under Mike Ashley. Any sympathy we might have once had for him buying a “bucket of holes” (Chris Mort) from Shepherd-Hall has long since evaporated following a sequence of appalling decisions which betrayed an absence of ethics and class. Since 2007 in respect of his running of United, Ashley has been found to be both a fool and a knave. He transformed Newcastle United into a Zombie operation and has only been released from that charge since we won the lottery with Rafa Benitez, somehow rocking up on Barrack Road and transforming so much in such a short space of time.
Ashley has demonstrated no competence in his stewardship of the club and displayed absolutely no affection, ambition or respect for it. In one of his rare appearances on TV he has spelled out his clear strategy of no investment in the club. He has confessed to the football world he offers absolutely nothing to Newcastle United. On that last point, we are completely agreed with him.
It was a mistake for him personally to buy United in 2007. He has conceded that himself. Why he did, only he can really explain but he has demonstrated his clear lack of suitability for the role he voluntarily walked into.
The club is at a cross-roads. It is inconceivable Newcastle United will hang onto Rafa Benitez as manager were Staveley to conclude she can’t complete the takeover. And without Rafa, the house of cards the club currently is, will collapse.
If Ashley needs a demonstration of what risks he is taking with the club, should he not complete the takeover, might I direct him to 14 miles south of St James’ Park and the Stadium of Light, currently thrashing around in a death spiral. Sunderland’s current agonies are the sum of all our fears at Newcastle United FC.
I imagine Ellis Short would take a potential buyer’s hand off should a similar bid be made for Sunderland that Staveley is making for Newcastle United. This is the reality for Ashley.
This bid of £300m offers Ashley the opportunity to recoup every penny he has put into the club and a good bit more. It allows him to have had a decade of free advertising on an unprecedented scale for his businesses and the value that has accrued for him.
Here is the perfect opportunity for Mike Ashley to count £300m back into his bank account and free himself of a responsibility he has demonstrated neither an appetite nor aptitude for. He has an opportunity to walk away. He must take it.
We don’t know much about Amanda Staveley to be honest. We know she moves in some ultra-wealthy circles and we know she played a pivotal role in taking Sheikh Mansour to Manchester City and catapulting that club to the forefront of world football. That’s what we all dream about and we’re filled with hope that our time might come. That is what we hope is on the table with this takeover.
There is no better club in Europe to buy beyond Newcastle United. The club is bursting with potential and indeed it is the knowledge of that which makes its long mediocrity so heartbreaking for us. In terms of identity, support, potential and passion there is no greater club to get hold of because the returns offer so much when the right people finally get it so gloriously right.
The future is unwritten in terms of what a new owner might be bring but we do know what Ashley offers because he has told us that himself and it is a grim, continuing, mean aspiration simply to exist and remain as that Zombie club that drove us to distraction prior to Rafa’s arrival in 2016.
For that reason, this takeover has to happen.
Michael Martin, @tfMichael1892