Saudi-led consortium buys Newcastle United

English Premier League club Newcastle United has new owners. A consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), PCP Capital Partners, and RB Sports & Media completed a £300m deal to buy the club from British billionaire Mike Ashley, whose 14-year reign came to an end on Thursday.

Newcastle United

Nicknamed Magpies, Newcastle United was a force to be reckoned with in English football for a long time. They finished runners-up in the English Premier League and FA Cup twice in the late nineties. However, under the ownership of Ashley, the club suffered relegation in the 2008-09 and 2015-16 seasons. The club, yet to win a major domestic trophy for more than 50 years, are in the relegation zone without a win in the league this season. They also got knocked out from the League Cup in the second round.

Why did Ashley sell the club?

Newcastle United went through one of their most difficult phases under Ashley. Within two years of his takeover, the club suffered relegation from the English Premier League. Though they returned to the top-flight in the 2010-11 season, the Tyneside outfit had inconsistent finishes in the league. In a fresh setback, they suffered another relegation. However, under Rafael Benitez, who won a UEFA Champions League title with Liverpool, Newcastle United returned to the English Premier League in the 2017-18 season.

Ashley had an uneasy relationship with the Newcastle United faithful. The 57-year-old had left the fans fuming when he renamed home ground St James’ Park. He also mistreated club legends like Kevin Keegan, Alan Shearer, etc., and stunned everyone with the sacking of Chris Hughton, who led them back to the top division in 2011. Two relegations, limited investment, and an owner who admitted that he regrets “getting into football” convinced the fans that under Ashley’s guardianship, the club would never return to its glory days.

Who are the new owners?

A consortium of PIF, PCP Capital Partners, and RB Sports & Media acquired the club from Ashley. Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the chairman of the PIF, which could hold 80% of shares. British businesswoman Amanda Staveley owns PCP Capital Partners. The firm assisted Sheikh Mansour’s £210 million purchase of Manchester City and attempted to buy Newcastle United four years ago.

RB Sports & Media, owned by Reuben Brothers, have investments in racecourses, aerodromes, media, etc. Jamie Reuben, born in Mumbai, is likely to be one of the key decision-makers at Newcastle United. The 34-year-old has sat on Championship club Queens Park Rangers’ (QPR) boardroom between 2018 and 2020.

What to expect?

With Manchester City growing into a powerhouse in English football since the Abu Dhabi takeover, Newcastle United fans will be hoping that their new owners, too, can take them to new heights.”We want to see Newcastle United get those trophies, obviously. At the top of the Premier League, in Europe, but to get trophies means patience, investment, time,” said Staveley on Thursday.

The new owners could sack manager Steve Bruce, who replaced Benitez in 2019, in the coming days. Antonio Conte, who has won trophies in England and Italy, and current Rangers manager Steven Gerrard are the two names strongly linked to the Newcastle job. The main priority of the new boardroom will be to ensure the safety of the club in the league this season. The club is likely to splash the cash in the upcoming transfer window in January.

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