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Newcastle: Premier League disappointed at claim after takeover fails

The proposed £300m Newcastle takeover deal was 80% financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund

The Premier League says it is “disappointed and surprised” after Newcastle accused it of not acting appropriately in its handling of a failed takeover of the club by a Saudi Arabian-backed consortium.

In July the group, which included Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund PIF, said it had backed out of the deal, and on Wednesday Newcastle said the Premier League had rejected the bid.

But the Premier League said: “The assertion that the Premier League rejected the takeover is incorrect.”

Its statement added: “The Premier League Board has, on a number of occasions, given its opinion about which entities it believes would have control over the club should the consortium proceed with the acquisition. That opinion is based on legal advice.

“This means the potential takeover could proceed to the next stage should the relevant entities provide all appropriate information. They would then be subject to a suitability assessment by the board.

“As an alternative, the board has repeatedly offered independent arbitration as a way forward since June.

“It’s also incorrect to suggest these decisions were taken by any individual; they were agreed unanimously by all Premier League board members.”

The consortium, which also included PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers, agreed a £300m deal to buy Newcastle from owner Mike Ashley in April.

In August the bid failed after the consortium rejected the offer of arbitration to determine who would own the club.

On Wednesday Newcastle said in a statement: “The club and its owners do not accept that Premier League chief executive Richard Masters and the Premier League have acted appropriately in relation to this matter and will be considering all relevant options available to them.

“This conclusion has been reached despite the club providing the Premier League with overwhelming evidence and legal opinions that PIF is independent and autonomous of the Saudi Arabian government.”

Speaking to BBC Sport earlier on Wednesday, Masters said he had “sympathy” for Newcastle fans because of the lack of information they received.

“There’s a reasonable expectation on all the parties involved for confidentiality – that’s what we were trying to respect,” he said.

Masters also said the Premier League would “look again” at the “issues and specifics” of its owners’ and directors’ test.

The bid was led by British financier Amanda Staveley, but PIF would have taken an 80% stake.

PIF’s chairman is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and it appeared the Premier League’s lawyers had been struggling to establish the precise links between the consortium and the Saudi government.

The Premier League’s rules meant it wanted to know who would have control, where funding would come from, and who would appoint the board.

Masters said that because the consortium ended its bid before the issue was resolved, there was “never any point” when the Premier League board was “asked to make an assessment on the suitability of all members of the consortium”.

Human rights groups and Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, had opposed the takeover.


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