Newcastle United owners’ Mike Ashley dispute - the ‘innocuous’ comment that could cost millions

Former Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley and current part-owner Amanda Staveley are locked in a legal dispute in relation to the £300million deal.
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Former Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley and current part-owner Amanda Staveley could settle a lawsuit in relation to the £300million sale of the club.

Ashley’s company which sold the club to PCP Capital Partners, along with RB Sports & Media as well as majority owners the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, St James Holdings Limited is suing Staveley, of PCP, following press reports of disparaging remarks made about the former owner, which was said to have breached a clause of a monetary loan between the pair. Ashley started this claim in December 2021.

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The loan, which helped facilitate the sale of the club, of which Staveley is now heavily involved in the day-to-day running, is worth around £10million. It has been said to contain a clause by which Staveley must adhere, stating she must not “admonish” Ashley about his near 15 years at the football club.

A court in London in the last week has heard lawyers from both sides argue their case. Ashley’s suits believe the loan, repayable in October 2023, should be repaid in advance of that due to the alleged breach. It has also been argued this would incur a higher loan fee, with the transaction costing Staveley a further £425,000.

This is due to Staveley reportedly breaking silence to reporters saying she could not wait to take down the Sports Direct logos in St James’ Park, which was one of the last remaining remnants of Ashley’s joyless tenure on Tyneside. She is also said to have told a reporter that Ashley wanted to retain a minority stake but that was refused. The alleged breaches are said to have taken place in November 2021 and January 2022.

Staveley’s lawyers reportedly said the comments about the signs were “innocuous”. Denials were also made in relation to the statements about Ashley’s shareholding.

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However, in a twist of fate recently, Judge Simon Bryan at London’s High Court has heard in a hearing that both parties are open to finding a way to end the case. According to Reuters, “St James Holdings’ lawyer Richard Lissack said his client was willing to try to reach a settlement” at a recent hearing. The report continues: “Gerard Rothschild, representing Staveley, said in written arguments that discussions have taken place “within the past 10 days”.”

An end to this dispute would close yet another chapter in Ashley’s painful time in the North East, with the Sports Direct tycoon’s ownership despised by Newcastle United fans.