The protracted Newcastle United takeover is said to be ‘hanging by a thread’, according to sources, with recent legal delays potentially further straining relationships.
And Newcastle World can reveal, the announcement of arbitration being put back to ‘early 2022’ came as a shock to all three parties in the consortium, PCP Capital Partners, Reuben Brothers and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
On July 19, United released a club statement on the ongoing confidential arbitration process. The arbitration sees Mike Ashley, via QCs Nick De Marco and Shaheed Fatima, challenging the Premier League’s application of their own rules in their owners’ and directors’ test to determine the suitability of PIF, PCP and the Reubens to own the football club.
It read: “The parties attended a hearing today in the case between Newcastle United and the Premier League. The main hearing of the arbitration has regrettably now been adjourned until early 2022 due to issues with the disclosure of evidence. The parties will be making no further comment at this time.”
With arbitration previously set for July 2021, this was the first fans found out about any delay.
However, it is also how the prospective buyers were given the news.
This unorthodox breaking of the news to investors waiting in the wings will have done little to breed trust in the buyer-seller relationship which saw an acrimonious, very public war of words play out in 2017. This dates back to PCP Capital Partners’ first attempts to buy the club.
At the time according to Sky Sports News sources, quoting Ashley, it was stated that: “Attempts to reach a deal with Amanda Staveley and PCP have proved exhausting, frustrating and a complete waste of time. It is only right to let the fans know that there is no deal on the table or even under discussion with Amanda Staveley and PCP.”
This prompted Staveley to riposte: “I’m very concerned, I’m very surprised and I’m disappointed about what’s been said this week.
“The suggestion that we were either wasting time or not serious is absurd. It’s hurtful. Hugely hurtful. This is something we’ve been working really hard on.
“It’s not something we’ve just thrown together. I’m putting a lot of my own capital into this and our investors, who come from around the world, include sovereign wealth funds.”
Staveley, with husband Merhdad Ghodoussi, and PCP failed with a number of bids for the club in 2017 before surprisingly returning to the table in late 2019 and agreeing the £300m+ deal to buy United from Ashley in spring 2020.
The deal stalled last summer, resulting in a public pull out of the buyers.
Since then legal action has taken centre stage with Ashley holding the power, given it is the club who have direct dealings with the Premier League in the takeover process.
He has launched two separate legal challenges, one via a private arbitration, the other the the Competition Appeal Tribunal.
A hearing to decide whether that anti-competition case has jurisdiction to run will be heard on September 29.
Even if Ashley’s St James Holdings Limited win that case, the Premier League has the right of appeal.
Legal sources suggest this process, if played out in full, could take up to 12 months - a timeframe which would cast serious doubt on the deal going ahead.