Newcastle United sold to Saudi group for £300m

Newcastle United Football Club announced that an investment group led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and including PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media has completed the acquisition the club.

The roughly £300 million deal buys 100% of Newcastle United Limited and Newcastle United Football Club Limited from Mike Ashley’s St. James Holdings Limited.

All requisite approvals have been obtained from the English Premier League.

The Premier League said it “has now received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club.”

Newcastle United said: “The investment group is comprised of long-term, patient investors who have every confidence in the future success of the club.

“Today’s announcement is the conclusion of a thorough and detailed process that has allowed the investment group to arrive at a deal that benefits all stakeholders and will leave Newcastle United well-placed to pursue a clear, long-term strategy.

“His Excellency Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Governor of PIF, will serve as Non-Executive Chairman of Newcastle United.

“Amanda Staveley, chief executive of PCP Capital Partners, will have one seat on the board.

“Jamie Reuben will also be a director of the Club, representing RB Sports & Media.

“For PIF, one of the world’s most impactful investors, the acquisition is in line with its strategy of focusing on key sectors including Sports and Entertainment, and aligns with PIF’s mission to actively invest over the long term – in this case, to harness the club’s potential and build upon the club’s legacy.”

Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Governor of PIF, said: “We are extremely proud to become the new owners of Newcastle United, one of the most famous clubs in English football.

“We thank the Newcastle fans for their tremendously loyal support over the years and we are excited to work together with them.”

PCP Capital Partners CEO Amanda Staveley said: “This is a long-term investment. We are excited about the future prospects for Newcastle United.

“We intend to instill a united philosophy across the club, establish a clear purpose, and help provide leadership that will allow Newcastle United to go on to big achievements over the long term.

“Our ambition is aligned with the fans – to create a consistently successful team that’s regularly competing for major trophies and generates pride across the globe.”

Jamie Reuben of RB Sports & Media said: “We look forward to a great future for Newcastle United.

“Newcastle is a fantastic city, which is why our family has been investing heavily in the area for many years.

“To become part of this great club and its amazing fans is a privilege.

“We will build a true community club, based upon our family’s knowledge of the city and in line with our plans that have been worked on closely with Newcastle City Council to deliver long-term sustainable growth for the area.”

The English Premier League said: “The Premier League, Newcastle United Football Club and St James Holdings Limited have today settled the dispute over the takeover of the club by the consortium of PIF, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media.

“Following the completion of the Premier League’s Owners’ and Directors’ Test, the club has been sold to the consortium with immediate effect.

“The legal disputes concerned which entities would own and/or have the ability to control the club following the takeover.

“All parties have agreed the settlement is necessary to end the long uncertainty for fans over the club’s ownership.

“The Premier League has now received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club.

“All parties are pleased to have concluded this process which gives certainty and clarity to Newcastle United Football Club and their fans.”

Newcastle City Council Nick Forbes said: “This is a momentous day in the history of the club and our city.

“I know that fans will be delighted by this news and are excited to welcome a decisive new direction for the club.

“Football is such a vital part of Newcastle’s identity and St James Park is, for many, the literal and metaphorical beating heart of the city.

“The prospect of successes on the pitch once more gives us all something to hope for.

“Newcastle United is our city’s biggest nationally and internationally recognised brand.

“As such, I look forward to speaking to the new owners to see what further opportunities for our city today’s announcement will bring.”

However, Amnesty UK chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said in a statement: “Instead of allowing those implicated in serious human rights violations to walk into English football simply because they have deep pockets, we’ve urged the Premier League to change their owners’ and directors’ test to address human rights issues …

“Ever since this deal was first talked about we said it represented a clear attempt by the Saudi authorities to sportswash their appalling human rights record with the glamour of top-flight football.

“Saudi ownership of St James’ Park was always as much about image management for Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and his government as it was about football.

“Under Mohammed Bin Salman, the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia remains dire — with government critics, women’s rights campaigners, Shia activists and human defenders still being harassed and jailed, often after blatantly unfair trials.

“The closed-door trial of Jamal Khashoggi’s alleged killers was widely perceived to be a part of a wider whitewash by the authorities, and Saudi Arabia is accused of a catalogue of crimes under international humanitarian law during the long conflict in Yemen.

“The phrase ‘human rights’ doesn’t even appear in the (Premier League’s) owners’ and directors’ test despite English football supposedly adhering to FIFA standards.

“We’ve sent the Premier League a suggested new human rights-compliant test and we reiterate our call on them to overhaul their standards on this.

“As with Formula One, elite boxing, golf or tennis, an association with top-tier football is a very attractive means of rebranding a country or person with a tarnished reputation.

“The Premier League needs to better understand the dynamic of sportswashing and tighten its ownership rules.”

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.