Newcastle takeover: Saudi Arabian-backed consortium pulls out of bid

The proposed £300m Newcastle takeover deal was 80% financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund

A Saudi Arabian-backed consortium has ended its bid to buy Newcastle United.

The group, which included Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund PIF, PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers, had agreed a £300m deal to buy the club from Mike Ashley in April.

The deal was still being scrutinised under the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test and it is understood PIF ran out of patience.

The consortium said that it was with “regret” that it had pulled out.

Amanda Staveley, the British businesswoman behind PCP Partners, said she was upset for the club’s supporters.

“It’s awful,” she said, adding that there would have been huge investment in the area.

“We are devastated for the fans. We really thank the fans – I personally thank them for all their support.”

A statement from the investor group said: “As an autonomous and purely commercial investor, our focus was on building long-term value for the club, its fans and the community as we remained committed to collaboration, practicality and proactivity through a difficult period of global uncertainty and significant challenges for the fans and the club.

“Ultimately, during the unforeseeably prolonged process, the commercial agreement between the Investment Group and the club’s owners expired and our investment thesis could not be sustained.”

The consortium’s withdrawal could pave the way for a takeover by American entrepreneur Henry Mauriss, who has registered his interest in Newcastle and remains extremely keen for the acquisition to happen.

What led to a delay after the takeover was agreed?

As revealed by the BBC this week, the Premier League was seeking clarification of the links between PIF and the Saudi state.

PIF’s chairman is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and it appears the Premier League’s lawyers had been struggling to establish the precise links between the consortium and the Saudi government.

PIF felt it had given as many assurances as it could about there being an appropriate amount of distance between it and the Saudi state.

The economic environment and prospect of a second wave of the coronavirus – and threat of limited fans in stadia – was also said to be unhelpful.

What’s been the reaction to the situation?

Human rights groups and the fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Hatice Cengiz, had opposed the takeover.

“Let this defeat send a strong message to the leadership in Saudi Arabia that they will not be able to use their money to cover up their human rights record or protect those responsible for Jamal’s murder,” Cengiz said.

“We will not stop and we will not rest until we get justice for Jamal.”

Speaking after the investor group’s withdrawal, Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK’s economic affairs programme director, claimed the bid had been an attempt by the Saudi Arabia government to “sportswash” their human rights record.

“The fact that this sportswashing bid has failed will be seen by human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia as a sign that their suffering has not been entirely overlooked,” he said.

In June, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said he would “fully consider” calls for the proposed bid to be blocked.

Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah tweeted: