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By ESPN Staff

Owner Ashley denies he will sell Newcastle

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has dismissed speculation he is ready to sell the club. Ashley, however, confirmed he is seeking investors amid reports that a series of potential purchasers, including a company owned by relatives of Osama bin Laden, have been sounded out. Asked about any plans to sell the club, the billionaire told the Evening Standard: 'That is not true. 'I would say that I am keen to have partners in Newcastle. That's a very expensive seat I sit in.' Questioned further about the link with the bin Laden family, Ashley replied: 'I think I'll start with people from Newcastle, not in some cave in Afghanistan.' The Saudi Binladin Group is run by Osama bin Laden's half-brother Bakr bin Laden, although the family distanced themselves from the Al-Qaeda founder some years ago. Ashley's comments came as his Sports Direct empire reported that profits for the year to April had halved after a drop in sales attributed in part to poor weather last summer and England's failure to qualify for the finals of Euro 2008.

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