MORE than four months after agreeing a sale price with Mike Ashley, Amanda Staveley abandoned her Saudi Arabia-backed attempts to buy Newcastle United on Thursday afternoon.

With the Premier League’s owners and directors’ test still incomplete, and with Saudi Arabia’s proxy battle with Qatar continuing to provide a series of stumbling blocks, Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners group issued a statement confirming the withdrawal of their bid.

As the dust begins to settle on the announcement, what do this week’s events mean for Newcastle? And what might happen next in the club’s seemingly endless takeover saga?


In short, because they could no longer see the Premier League giving their takeover the go-ahead. It has been a tortuous four months since the Premier League board began their owners and directors’ test, and for most of that time, Staveley’s group genuinely believed they would get the green light.

Increasingly, however, it has become clear that the lengthy impasse was not going to be broken.

The Premier League have still not made a public comment reacting to Thursday’s developments, but it is clear that issues of broadcasting piracy within Saudi Arabia were a crucial factor in the governing body’s refusal to give their consent to Staveley’s takeover proposals.

The Premier League demanded clarification over the dividing lines between the Saudi investors who were going to be owning Newcastle via their involvement in the Gulf state’s Public Investment Fund and the Saudi rulers at the head of the government. Sources claim it was not forthcoming.

Staveley has pinned the blame firmly on the Premier League, claiming the governing body repeatedly stalled and failed to carry through on their assurances. “They were saying, ‘You know what, we won’t reject you, but we won’t approve you either, so we’ll just sit here for month after month,” said Staveley, in an interview with The Athletic. “They could have told us all this before we exchanged.”

There have also been suggestions that a number of Premier League clubs, including Liverpool and Tottenham, were urging the governing body to block the deal.


She has tried twice and failed twice – is there any chance of Staveley trying to make it third time lucky by rekindling her interest in buying Newcastle?

Never say never. The North Yorkshire financier has a burning ambition to buy a Premier League club and clearly feels Ashley is selling at a realistic price. Perhaps, if Staveley wins her ongoing court case against Barclays, in which she is suing the bank for £1.5bn, she will be in a position to fund a new takeover bid herself – possibly with the continued support of property developers David and Simon Reuben – thereby removing the problematic issue of Saudi Arabian finance from the equation.

Her comments on Thursday night appeared to leave the tantalising possibility of a new bid open, but in reality, the last 12 months have taken a major financial and emotional toll. It is hard to imagine the Saudi Arabian state wanting to put themselves through such high-profile public scrutiny again without a cast-iron guarantee of success, so Staveley is effectively back to square one, trying to assemble a consortium with sufficient funds and resolve to buy out Ashley. As a result, it would be no surprise if this was the finally the moment at which she opted to walk away.


That is the £300m question. Or, if reports are to be believed, the £350m question, as that is the sum the American businessman is reportedly ready to pay Ashley.

The truth is, when it comes to Mauriss, the CEO of American media company Clear TV, we are back into the realms of chronic uncertainty. Some sources claim Mauriss is a thoroughly reputable bidder with the financial clout needed to buy Newcastle. Others maintain he is a fantasist with no realistic prospect of completing a deal. In an era when conspiracy theories can quickly become entrenched as fact, it has even been suggested Mauriss is a stooge planted by the Qatari state to make life more difficult for Saudi Arabia.

What is known is that Mauriss has established a channel of communication to Ashley via the Newcastle owner’s intermediary, Justin Barnes, and has been told he will be considered a viable bidder if he can provide proof of funds. At this stage, that is not believed to have happened. In the wake of Thursday’s developments, the stage is clear for Mauriss to move in. It is time for the American to put his cards, and his cheque book, on the table.


There has long been talk of another American group hovering in the background, waiting for an opportunity to make a move. Little concrete is known about them, although it has been suggested they could have links to the FPP group that explored the possibility of buying Sunderland before instead opting to loan money to the club.

Some form of fans’ ownership has also been mooted as a desirable alternative to an outside bidder, but in reality, the prospect of supporters being able to raise £300m, not to mention the sums that would be needed for investment in the wake of a successful takeover, is extremely slight.


Ashley, who is currently in the United States, had no prior warning about Thursday’s announcement, and is understood to be bitterly disappointed at the collapse of Staveley’s bid. Sources claim he remains keen to sell up, and is willing to consider alternative offers provided they meet his requirements. Having agreed a £300m fee with Staveley’s group, though, it is unlikely that he will be willing to drop his asking price significantly.

He could opt to remove Newcastle from the market in an attempt to draw a line under things, as he has done before, but a more likely scenario is that continues the process of emotionally detaching himself from the club while instructing Lee Charnley to continue overseeing things on a day-to-day basis.

There appears little or no chance of the Sports Direct boss reengaging with Newcastle on a meaningful basis and investing any fresh money into the club. He will want to protect his investment, but will be in no mood to speculate to accumulate.


In the immediate term, it means he remains in a job. Had Staveley’s takeover been successful, there has long been an expectation that Bruce’s position would have been in jeopardy, with Mauricio Pochettino and Rafael Benitez regularly touted as potential replacements.

In the wake of this week’s developments, Bruce can at least step up his summer planning with the “certainty” he had been demanding in his recent press conferences. There is no chance of Ashley removing him from his position, so he can prepare for the new season in the knowledge he will still be in charge on September 12.

Clearly, though, the prospect of a transformative injection of funds has also disappeared. Bruce will be operating to the strict budget that was agreed when he spoke to Ashley earlier this week. With the coronavirus pandemic having transformed the footballing landscape, that budget is set to be around 50 per cent lower than would have been the case had the world not changed.

Bruce is expected to have around £35m to spend this summer, plus anything raised from player sales. He will be able to make four or five additions, but they are likely to be loan signings or cut-price deals rather than a repeat of the record-breaking £40m deal that saw Joelinton join last summer. Any additional expenditure - for example on the training ground or St James’ Park - will almost certainly be on hold.