Newcastle refute rumours of new takeover
Newcastle today played down speculation that billionaire owner Mike Ashley could be ready to sell out just months into his reign.
Reports from Iceland last night suggested the sports retail magnate had held talks with potential investors Palmi Haraldsson and Jon Asgeir Johannesson over a £135million-plus takeover.
However, a club spokesman was swift to dismiss the claims, saying: ``These stories are complete news to the club.''
A spokesman for Ashley today declined to comment on the rumours, and while that may do little to clarify the situation, the feeling on Tyneside, for now at least, is that a second change of ownership is not imminent.
There has been speculation for some time that Ashley, who formally completed his £134.4million swoop for the club in June, could quickly cash in on his investment, although Chris Mort, the man he installed as his chairman following Freddy Shepherd's departure, has repeatedly spoken of Ashley's long-term plans for the club.
The Magpies' owner reportedly ploughed another £30million into the club last week in an attempt to address the £80million debt he inherited on his arrival, although Mort indicated that the issue of servicing that liability would be an early priority.
Newcastle had earlier this summer been linked with an approach from a Chinese investor as the club continues to make headlines off the field.
Ashley succeeded where both the Jersey-based Belgravia Group and the Polygon-backed St James' Park Group had failed when he persuaded the Hall family to part with their 41.6 per cent holding in return for £55million.
His takeover was all but complete when Shepherd's 28 per cent-plus stake was secured for another £37million.
Mort, a top City lawyer, was immediately installed as deputy chairman to carry out a strategic review of the business as he worked alongside Shepherd.
In the meantime, new manager Sam Allardyce, who had been appointed by the existing chairman, set about his team rebuilding plans, a process which was complicated by Shepherd's subsequent departure.
Allardyce has invested heavily in the likes of Joey Barton, David Rozehnal, Alan Smith and Jose Enrique under both regimes, but the sales of Scott Parker and Kieron Dyer to West Ham mean the outlay to date this summer amounts to a net figure of around £7million.
Ashley did not amass his estimated £1.9billion fortune by rejecting good business deals, and it remains to be seen whether a lucrative offer could tempt him to sell on the club he worked so hard to acquire.