PETER KENYON is now the clear front-runner in the race to buy Newcastle United – and intends to install himself as the club’s new chief executive.

Mike Ashley is understood to have received four separate offers for his 100 per cent stake in the Magpies in the last few weeks, and is currently assessing the merits of the bids.

Each offer is worth more than the £300m Ashley has always regarded as a minimum price for the club, but the bids are believed to differ in terms of the various caveats that are attached.

All four bids are reliant on overseas finance, with groups based in the United States, Middle East and Turkey known to be interested.

At this stage, Kenyon is closest to sealing a deal, partly thanks to his personal relationship with Ashley and partly because his group has been granted access to Newcastle United’s ‘data room’, which is the process that paves the way for a formal period of due diligence.

Kenyon, who has previously acted as an informal advisor at Middlesbrough, has spent the last couple of months working with New York-based consultancy group, Rockefeller Management, to put together a US-based consortium with the funds to both buy out Ashley and take Newcastle forward.

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A source close to the former Manchester United and Chelsea chief executive claims he made a major breakthrough in terms of securing the necessary financial backing three weeks ago, hence the sudden escalation in his discussions with Ashley.

Ashley is keen for a deal to be completed before the end of the year, and his impromptu television comments on Monday were an attempt to drive the takeover process forward.

Kenyon is aware of competing interest, and the next two weeks are likely to be crucial to his hopes of securing a return to English football.

If his bid is accepted, he will take over the day-to-day running of Newcastle as chief executive, placing a huge question mark over the future of the club’s current managing director, Lee Charnley.