Mike Ashley: ‘Newcastle sale closer than ever’
Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has revealed that talks to sell the Premier League outfit are “at a more progressed stage than they have ever been.”
Speaking to Sky News, the owner of sports-goods retailer Sports Direct stated that he remains hopeful that a deal to relinquish control of the club could be reached by the end of 2018.
He said: “I am hopeful for the Newcastle fans, for the club, for everybody, that I will be able to step aside and we will be able to get an owner in that will please everybody.
“I'd like it to be before the January transfer window.”
Asked about the likelihood of the month-long timeframe being met, he described it as “possible,” stopping short of calling it realistic – saying it was “too strong a word.”
He added: “Hopefully we can carry on the good form - just recent good form - and we can get the deal done.”
Ashley has endured a fractious relationship with Newcastle fans, culminating in a protest at the club’s last home game – a 3-0 defeat to West Ham on Saturday.
In November, the club was reportedly subject to a UK£350 million (US$448 million) takeover bid from a mystery US consortium, though this was refuted by the top-flight outfit.
Prior to that, Ashley and businesswoman Amanda Staveley’s PDC Capital Partners had failed to reach an agreement for a sale in January.
Ashley’s inability and unwillingness to sell the club for less than his reported UK£400 million (US$512 million) asking price has left the team in a constant state of on-field struggle.
Manager Rafa Benitez has repeatedly bemoaned a lack of financial support in the transfer market, with the result being consecutive seasons battling against relegation. The club’s precarious Premier League status has, in turn, made potential investors wary of meeting Ashley’s demands, with fears of the economic impact that any relegation to the Championship might have.
After taking just three points from their opening ten games, Benitez’s side have improved recently, winning three successive games before West Ham eased past them at St James’ Park.
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