Newcastle takeover collapsed after bidders rejected Premier League arbitration offer

A general view of St. James' Park stadium as Newcastle play a Premier League match against Liverpool behind closed doors
Newcastle finished 13th in the Premier League in 2019-20

The potential takeover of Newcastle collapsed after a Saudi Arabian-backed consortium rejected the Premier League's offer of arbitration to determine who would own the club.

The group ended its £300m bid to buy the club off Mike Ashley in June.

The deal was still being scrutinised under the Premier League's owners' and directors' test.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has now commented on the deal for the first time publicly.

In a letter to Newcastle upon Tyne Central MP Chi Onwurah,external-link Masters said in June the Premier League board made a "clear determination as to which entities it believed would have control over the club" after the proposed purchase.

The group included Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers.

Masters said the consortium disagreed with the Premier League's conclusion that one entity would have control of the club.

He said the league offered the group "the ability to have the matter determined by an independent arbitral tribunal" if it wanted to challenge that decision, but the consortium refused and then "PIF specifically" voluntarily withdrew from the process.

When ending its bid four months after agreeing a deal in April, the consortium said: "Ultimately, during the unforeseeably prolonged process, the commercial agreement between the Investment Group and the club's owners expired and our investment thesis could not be sustained."

Problems with the takeover process stemmed from claims about Saudi Arabia's human rights record and accusations of TV piracy.

The country has denied it is behind the illegal broadcasting of Premier League matches.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is the ruling leader of the country and chairman of its PIF, has taken responsibility for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, calling it a "mistake", but denies he ordered his death.

The PIF was set to provide an 80% stake in the takeover bid and determining where Bin Salman's power began and ended proved an issue for the Premier League.

Masters said that because the consortium ended its bid before the issue was resolved, there was "never any point" where the Premier League board was "asked to make an assessment on the suitability of all members of the consortium".

Masters also told Onwurah the Premier League is reviewing its owners' and directors' test to "ensure it remains robust and fair to all interested stakeholders".

Campaign group Amnesty International has urged the Premier League to overhaul the test in light of Newcastle's failed takeover.

Newcastle United Supporters' Trust said the Premier League needs to provide answers over the collapsed bid.

The trust is one of six fans groups who will take part in a Football Supporters' Association online forum on Wednesday to discuss issues with the Premier League, including supporters returning to games.

Masters said the league will "discuss concerns supporters have directly".

He added: "The Premier League has maintained a positive dialogue with Newcastle United throughout this process and will continue to do so."

In response to Masters' letter, Onwurah said: "I appreciate the response of the Premier League and think it shows some respect for fans who have campaigned so hard for answers. I am pleased they recognise the importance of football to fans.

"However, it doesn't really provide the transparency or assurances fans are seeking. We are still not clear what the concerns were."

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