Newcastle takeover talk returns as new bidder confirms interest

Newcastle takeover talk returns as new bidder confirms interest

Newcastle United’s owner, Mike Ashley, is awaiting further developments after another prospective buyer formalised its interest in the club.

The Paris-based Bellagraph Nova Group, which claims to have enlisted the help of former Newcastle strikers Alan Shearer and Michael Chopra, has submitted a letter of intent and proof of funds following the withdrawal of PCP Capital Partners’ largely Saudi-backed bid to buy Ashley out.

BNG, founded by Singaporean cousins Evangeline Shen and Nelson and Terence Loh, has offered the Sports Direct magnate £280m, a figure sources on Tyneside have insisted is not even in the relevant ball park.

Amanda Staveley’s PCP, backed in large part by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, agreed a deal at around £340m, but pulled out last month having failed to provide the Premier League with the answers it required to complete its owners’ and directors’ test, something it insisted it had done.

American businessman Henry Mauriss stepped in with a £350m offer once the Saudis’ exclusivity period had expired, but that verbal agreement is yet to be sealed with cash.

News of BNG’s interest was confirmed in a statement issued to Channel News Asia. It read: “Bellagraph Nova Group’s founders are at an advanced stage of negotiation having already provided a LOI (Letter of Intent) as well as a proof of funds on Aug 10.

“In addition to the engagement to the Newcastle Football Club and community, Bellagraph Nova Group enlisted help of England captain Alan Shearer and former player Michael Chopra.

“BN (Bellagraph Nova) Group’s founders have declared their willing to massively contribute to the development of the club through their solid and international structure and a combined business/sport devoting mindset.”

What is clear, however, is that BNG – or any other prospective buyer, for that matter – will have to go significantly higher to persuade Ashley to part company with the club he bought for £134.4m back in 2007.

He is desperate to offload the business after a series of aborted bids, but crucially does not need to financially and, despite his mounting frustration, is not about to be bounced into a firesale.

Despite the apparent collapse of PCP’s attempted takeover, Ashley is understood to be keen to keep open the channels of communication with the group in the belief that it could be revived, a view which has not been dismissed by the Staveley camp.

However, the Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Masters, confirmed last week in a letter to Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah that the Saudi group had declined independent arbitration after it had been unable to convince the governing body that the PIF and the Saudi state were not one and the same amid concerns over human rights and TV piracy.

BNG, which boasted revenues of $12bn (more than £9bn) last year, employs 23,000 people worldwide in fields including healthcare, financial services and investment, luxury and real estate, entertainment, technology and media.