If I had a pound for every time I’ve quoted the press about someone being just about to take over Newcastle United I’d probably be able to buy the club myself. And then there’d be changes I can tell you. If however I had to pay a pound every time such a story turned out to be untrue I’d have to sell my wife and eat the dog to hold off starvation.
Still, if George Caulkin of The Times is to be believed, Barry Moat has successfully negotiated the continuation of the club’s overdraft with Barclays and has tabled a bid of ‘slightly less than £100m’. The Mail and The Mirror are reporting similar things, although all these stories probably have their origin in the same rumour. None of the stories even quote ‘insiders’ or ‘sources’ let alone anyone who might actually be in a position to reliably know anything, so the usual caution is advised.
Nevertheless it makes a certain amount of sense in terms of timing. It was generally surmised that Keegangate was an ‘obstacle’ to the take over and with that now out of the way we could perhaps expect things to start moving again.
The question being asked though is: will Mike Ashley actually sell?
I would be surprised if Ashley has much love left for the Toon after what he’s been through. He’s had a pretty dreadful time of things and the revelations of Keegangate did nothing to improve matters. He will, however, want to strike a balance between maximising his return and freeing himself from the hassle of Newcastle United.
Ashley spent £134m on the club and loaned it a further £110m to consolidate the debts. Rumour sometimes has it that he’s asking £100m ‘all-in’, which implies he’s writing off the £110m loan and stands to lose £144m even if he gets his full £100m asking price. Personally I’m not convinced he’s writing that debt off but I have no evidence to the contrary.
Certainly if he hangs on until we get promoted (assuming we do) he could probably at least double his asking price. Given our current form you’d have to say promotion is looking likely, particularly if Ashley is prepared to invest a few million in the squad in January to make sure of things. I know that there’s a long way to go yet and plenty things could still go wrong but, as it stands, we’re looking like a good bet. This could tempt Ashley to hold on to the club.
But he also has to deal with the Serious Fraud Office and I’d guess he’s going to need his wits about him to get out of that mess – the Toon could be a distraction he’d prefer to do without.
So it’s up in the air and we’ll only really know when things are confirmed officially one way or the other. Your guess is as good as mine.