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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - A Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund is reportedly in talks to purchase Premier League club Newcastle United.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that the Public Investment Fund, together with a group of investors organised by British financier Amanda Staveley, are in discussions to buy the English club for £340 million (Dh1.6 billion), with a deal days or weeks away, the newspaper said.
A spokesman for Newcastle United declined to comment on Saturday, while Saudi's Public Investment Fund was not immediately available for comment when contacted by The National. But news of a potential bid to buy the club will no doubt buoy disgruntled Newcastle fans who have long been at loggerheads with their current owner, Mike Ashley.
Ashley, a British retail tycoon, has been trying to sell the club he acquired in 2007 for £134 million for years. The 55-year-old has been a deeply unpopular figure among fans, largely due to a lack of investment in the playing squad that has seen the club relegated twice during his reign.
At the end of 2017, Ashley was said to have turned down an offer of about £300 million from a consortium led by PCP Capital Partners, run by Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi.
Opto Advisers, led by former Chelsea and Manchester United chief executive Peter Kenyon, were reportedly putting together an offer for the club. But a source told The National Kenyon was unable to raise the required funds to instigate a bid.
The Bin Zayed Group held protracted negotiations with Newcastle last summer with a view to buying the club for a fee of around £350 million. The Dubai business group said in May 2019 it had agreed terms for the purchase of the Premier League side from owner Ashley, and this was “reflected in a document, signed by both parties, which has been forwarded to the Premier League”.
In July, the group took the unusual step of releasing a statement via a third party, insisting it has completed all aspects of the takeover process and was "working diligently" to push the deal over the line.
The group's interest in the purchase of the North-East club has cooled since then, but should the report of Saudi interest come to fruition, Newcastle fans would expect significant funds to be made available to manager Steve Bruce in the summer to sign players.
The club, who play their home matches at the 52,000-seater St James' Park, are currently 14th in the Premier League after 24 games and face third-tier Oxford United in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday.
Should PIF be successful in their bid to buy the club, Newcastle would become the second Premier League club with ties to the Kingdom after Sheffield United, who are owned by Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz, a grandson of modern Saudi Arabia founder King Abdulaziz.
Updated: January 25, 2020 04:57 PM
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