Mike Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale

Over the past decade Mike Ashley has been one of the most controversial club owners in English football. With the sole exception of Roman Abramovich, it is difficult to think of a more recognisable counterpart. However it now appears that the Ashley era at Newcastle United is finally drawing to a close.

Last week Newcastle FC was officially put up for sale with a statement released by St James Holdings, a company established by Ashley to oversee his control. The decision was reportedly made “to give the club the best possible opportunity of securing the positioning and investment necessary to take it to the next level.” A new buyer is hoped to be in place before the upcoming January transfer window.

The statement also offered new buyers “deferred substantial holdings” to help a replacement make short term investments into the club.

Ashley has a majority shareholding in British retailer Sports Direct and is (on paper at least) a billionaire. However, fans have often criticised Ashley’s lack of investment into the team, and blamed him for a lack of success in recent years.

In terms of results, Ashley’s time at the club has been disappointing. Newcastle were relegated (twice) for the first time in Premier League history, accompanied by consistent managerial instability.

A fractious relationship with fans peaked in 2016 when Ashley said that he “regretted” buying the club. Many ex-players (notably Alan Shearer) were openly critical of his leadership.Controversy surrounding the tycoon also stretched well beyond footballing matters. The self-confessed “power drinker” faced numerous problems with the law in recent years, based primarily on alcohol consumption and his breaching of employment law with Sports Direct.

The decision to sell comes at an interesting time for Newcastle, who seem to have prospered since the appointment of manager Rafael Benítez in March 2016.

Nonetheless, hordes of Newcastle fans have already begun speculating over who their next owner could be, with Amanda Staveley one such suggestion. The financier has previously made bids on other Premier League sides, and was seen at Newcastle’s home game against Liverpool earlier this month. It is however far too early to speculate with any real credibility on such matters.

This is not the first time Ashley has put Newcastle up for sale, but it would appear that now the full-time whistle might finally be about to blow on one the Premier League’s most colourful and controversial figures.


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December 2021
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