The head of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund is poised to become the public face of the club as part of the £300million takeover of Newcastle from retail tycoon Mike Ashley. Photo: Reuters/Lee Smith
The head of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund is poised to become the public face of the club as part of the £300million takeover of Newcastle from retail tycoon Mike Ashley. Photo: Reuters/Lee Smith

Saudis plan to turn Toon into global powerhouse

By Helen Cahill Time of article published Apr 19, 2020

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NEWCASTLE – Saudi fund boss Yasir Al-Rumayyan is in the final stages of taking over as chairman of Newcastle United, sources told The Mail on Sunday.

The head of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund is poised to become the public face of the club as part of the £300million takeover of Newcastle from retail tycoon Mike Ashley.

Al-Rumayyan is one of the most powerful men in Saudi Arabia as chairman of Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil company in the world, and governor of the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

He must now pass the detailed checks of his fitness to run the club conducted by the Premier League. The approval of the new board is expected to take several weeks. The Saudi-backed consortium has sent a 350-page document detailing their financial plans for the club to the Premier League.

The document outlines audacious plans to pump hundreds of millions into Newcastle in a bid to create a club capable of competing in the Champions League. The document outlines fresh investment over a series of three-year stages, new commercial sponsorships and plans for the day-to-day management of the club.

The new owners want to revamp Newcastle’s stadium, while buying star players and training younger players to try to create sustained success.

The club will be part-owned by the PIF, financier Amanda Staveley and property tycoons David and Simon Reuben. PIF will own 80 per cent, with Staveley and the Reuben brothers both taking 10 per cent.

Staveley conducted face-to-face meetings with Ashley to thrash out the details before the coronavirus lockdown.

Discussions picked up in recent weeks when Ashley dropped the asking price from £340m to £300m after the coronavirus pandemic took off.

The payment for the club will be made entirely in cash despite earlier reports of a debt-fuelled deal. The Saudi-led consortium had considered a bid for Chelsea but could not justify paying £3.5bn. Sources said owner Roman Abramovich was asking for £2.2bn for the club, which also needed a £1.3bn investment to build a new stadium.

The bidders preferred the prospect of generating significant profit by turning around Newcastle to create a brand to challenge Chelsea.

The Saudi owners are aware they must answer some tough questions around the human rights record of their home country. Amnesty International have raised concerns over abuses conducted during the regime led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. As chairman of the Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Al-Rumayyan controls assets worth about £260bn.

He also led the world’s largest ever share sale last year when Saudi Aramco kicked off an initial public offering on the Saudi Tadawul stock exchange. Aramco holds a monopoly on oil in Saudi Arabia, producing more than 10million barrels of crude oil a day and accounting for 10 per cent of global demand.

Al-Rumayyan courted international investors for the share sale as part of the Crown Prince’s plans to shift his country away from oil dependency and develop other areas of the economy.

The bid to buy Newcastle is the next part of that plan.

Mail on Sunday

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