Saudis to offer £300m
Ashley ‘to invest in stores’ if Newcastle deal sealed
Mike Ashley: likely to accept offer for football club
Retail analysts expect Sports Direct and House of Fraser tycoon Mike Ashley to use cash raised from selling Newcastle United FC to prop up his high street empire.
The former Rangers shareholder is close to accepting a £300 million offer for the Tyneside club from a Saudi-financed consortium.
City observers have told the Evening Standard they believe he will divert the funds into parts of his faltering shops which include the Jenners department store business.
A bid for the football club is being led by Amanda Staveley on behalf of the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, supported by PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers, and is subject to Premier League approval.
The Sports Direct billionaire has suffered years of criticism, including a boycott by the club’s supporters despite injecting millions into the team and the facilities.
Mr Ashley, who also drew unwanted comment during his involvement at Ibrox, including a long-running legal battle over merchandise, may now focus entirely on his retail operations.
He has specialised in acquiring and reviving distressed retailers and may see the impact of the coronavirus as an opportunity to buy more assets cheaply. Some are facing permanently closure, while other big names such as Oasis, Warehouse and Cath Kidston have quit the high street.
Ashley acquired Jenners as part of Frasers deal (pic: Terry Murden)
Mr Ashley has funnelled his brands, which include Flannels, Evans Cycles, and Sofa.com, into the renamed Frasers group, but its shares have plunged by nearly half to 233p this year as the markets have been pummelled by the lockdown.
He is said to be competing with JD Sports to buy shoe chain Office, and some believe he could make a move on Footasylum after the Competition and Markets Authority last week ordered JD to sell the footwear chain.
Football observers believe that the Saudi consortium, if successful in buying Newcastle United, would invest heavily in top international stars to challenge for the Premier League title.
Among the names being mentioned are Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, Edinson Cavani of PSG and Aston Villa’s former Hibs midfielder John McGinn. There has also been talk of a bid for Rangers star Alfredo Morelos.
Paddy Power is odds-on (10/11) that former Tottenham Hotspur coach Mauricio Pochettino would be brought in to replace Steve Bruce.