Revealed! Failed takeover investor John Textor’s plans for Newcastle United - before Crystal Palace buy

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Crystal Palace part-owner John Textor’s attempts to buy Newcastle United from Mike Ashley flopped earlier this year - and here’s the story of how close it came, why it failed and what the future under the Florida-based businessman may have looked like.

Who is Textor?

John Textor is Founder and CEO of Facebank, Inc. and was previously the largest shareholder and Executive Chairman of fuboTV, Inc., formerly known as Facebank Group, according to his website.

The American was described as “Hollywood’s Virtual Reality Guru” by Forbes in 2016.

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On he is described as a “globally recognized, pioneer and developer of disruptive technologies, creative content, and digital distribution business models for media, entertainment and the internet”.

Textor completed the purchase of 18% of Crystal Palace for around £90m earlier this month, a move which allowed the Eagles’ board to spend big on a number of players this summer.

He also recently failed with an attempted 25% buyout of Benfica, despite coming to an agreement last month. The Portuguese giants’ hierarchy vetoed the sale to Textor due to a lack of information regarding the agreement. This came shortly after president Luis Filipe Vieira was placed under house arrest over allegations of tax fraud and money laundering.

Estimates have Textor’s net worth at less than £1bn.

Wayne Borg, Singer Kelis and John Textor attend the Abu Dhabi Digital Domain Event at the 65th Cannes Film Festival at Plage de La Quinzaine des Realisateurs on May 21, 2012 in Cannes, France. Wayne Borg, Singer Kelis and John Textor attend the Abu Dhabi Digital Domain Event at the 65th Cannes Film Festival at Plage de La Quinzaine des Realisateurs on May 21, 2012 in Cannes, France.
Wayne Borg, Singer Kelis and John Textor attend the Abu Dhabi Digital Domain Event at the 65th Cannes Film Festival at Plage de La Quinzaine des Realisateurs on May 21, 2012 in Cannes, France.

What were his plans for Newcastle United?

In February, when Textor’s talk to buy a stake in Palace faded a little and Benfica boardroom issues arose, he turned his attention to Newcastle United.

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Initial talks between Ashley’s people and Textor are said to have gone well with a broad agreement on a deal reached within a week.

The agreement would see Textor pay an initial upfront cost of £100m for United, which Ashley required to be put down as a non-refundable deposit.

A further £100m would be required after completion of the deal, which was understood to have been funded via a company within Textor’s portfolio, fuboTV.

And then the final £100m of the £300m deal was to come at a later date, with Textor’s declared intention of raising cash by floating United on the New York Stock Exchange.

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This process, according to sources close to negotiations, would have also seen cash raised to finance further investment in the football club.

Fans would have been able to buy a % of shares in the football club, similar to a controversial scheme cooked by previous owners Sir John Hall and Freddy Shepherd in the late 1990s.

Textor’s deal, as well as sounding very similar in nature to Joe DaGrosa and Peter Kenyon’s buy now, pay later attempt, would have come in at £40m under what the PCP Consortium renegotiated their deal at following the expiry of their initial buyout agreement in late June 2020.

How close did he come to investment?

Talks were said to be progressing well on February 3, 2021, but by February 12, the plug had been pulled on the deal.

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While direct conversations had taken place between Ashley’s right-hand man Justin Barnes and Florida-based Textor, the deal presented to Ashley on February 9 was never signed off.

As a result, Textor walked away from negotiations.

He had previously been asked to deposit his £100m in an escrow account. An escrow is a third party account where funds are kept before being transferred to their required destination.

This wasn’t the end, however.

Textor’s people were asked if they wanted to resurrect the deal after February 12. They politely declined the offer.

Club sources suggest they feared Textor did not have the money to complete the deal and would struggle to pass Premier League owners’ and directors’ test rules due to previous issues with company bankruptcy.

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As part of the deal Textor was set to take 100% of Ashley’s shares, compared to 18% of Palace’s, meaning any potential issues encountered in a whole buyout of United were seemingly satisfied at Selhurst Park.

And what next for Newcastle United and Mike Ashley?

The buying consortium - comprising Amanda Staveley-led PCP Capital Partners, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and the Reuben Brothers - await news of negotiations between seller - the club - and regulatory body - the Premier League.

The consortium were advised to wait on a progress update at the end of July, and will be expecting one imminently by Ashley’s legal and administrative representatives.

Throughout the process timescales have appeared to run away with proceedings, and as we head into the second half of 2021, things are no different.

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The Competition Appeal Tribunal case brought by St James’ Holdings against the top flight has a September 29 hearing date but even if United win - and the club expectation is they will - an appeal could well be lodged.

Were that the case, United may have to wait 12 months, according to legal sources, before the appeal process is complete and the actual case can begin.

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