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Financier Amanda Staveley has tabled a formal offer of up to £300m for Newcastle United, in a move that values the Premier League football club below the sum sought by Mike Ashley, its entrepreneur owner.
If successful, the deal would be the latest in a series of takeovers of top-tier English clubs in recent years, with large corporations and wealthy investors attracted to the league’s multibillion pound broadcasting income. Since 2016, Southampton, West Bromwich Albion, Everton and Swansea City have all been acquired.
PCP Capital, the firm founded by Ms Staveley, made two bids for Newcastle in the past month, the most recent at the end of last week, according to two people familiar with the situation.
However, PCP has valued the North East-based club shy of the £300m-£400m sought by Mr Ashley, founder of the Sports Direct retail stores. The most recent bid, which allows for an add-on for good performance, is in the £260m-£300m range, according to those with knowledge of the bids.
Mr Ashley is yet to accept and PCP does not have exclusivity to make offers for the club. But no other bidder has yet made a credible offer, said those close to the negotiations
PCP, whose investors come from the United Arab Emirates, was until recently focused on a takeover of Liverpool being ready to bid as much as £1.5bn, but those talks have broken down.
Ms Staveley arranged the sale of Manchester City to Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour in 2008.
According to people close to her thinking, the value of the club must take into account the danger of losing the Premier League’s lucrative broadcasting rights in the event of relegation.
The 20 Premier League clubs have a £5.1bn domestic broadcasting deal with Sky and BT that came into effect last season, as well as £3bn from overseas television contracts.
PCP believes Newcastle’s price should take into account the danger relegation © PA
The Premier League is expected to tender for the next set of UK broadcasting rights this year, and they are expected to go up in value once again.
Another concern for the bidders is an investigation by HM Revenue & Customs, with the club’s managing director among executives arrested and questioned this year in a probe into the tax affairs of leading European clubs. The club and the executives involved deny any wrongdoing.
Mr Ashley put the club up for sale last month, saying he was “not wealthy enough” to compete with sides such as Manchester City, the current league leaders.
The retail tycoon has also lamented that he can no longer attend games because of the anger he would face from Newcastle fans. Supporters have been fiercely critical of the perceived mismanagement and under-investment during Mr Ashley’s decade-long ownership — a period in which the club has been relegated from the Premier League twice.
The decision to sell came after an improvement in Newcastle’s performance under manager Rafa Benitez, who guided the club back to the Premier League this year following relegation in 2016.
PCP is being advised by Freshfields, while Newcastle is advised by Dentons.