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South African consortium meet with Keegan

The businessman heading a South African consortium bidding to take over Newcastle United has confirmed he has spoken to Kevin Keegan about returning to the club as manager.

Johnathan Cleland met the 57-year-old, whose resignation last month led to protests which sparked Mike Ashley's decision to sell the Magpies, in Manchester on Monday evening and was encouraged by what he heard.

Cleland told the city's evening newspaper, the Evening Chronicle: "My meeting with Kevin went very well. I am hugely impressed with him and I got the sense there is a good chemistry between us and there is a strong mutual interest in working together.

"He is our preferred option, but we can't make any concrete decisions on the management position until negotiations on our planned takeover are further advanced.

"I think he understands and supports our concept of developing the club organically."

Cleland's comments came as the group he leads stepped up their attempts to buy the club.

He revealed his consortium is "80% confident" of managing to push through a deal as up to eight prospective buyers jockey for position.

It is understood Ashley actually valued the club at around £300 million and that the South Africans propose to pay half the money up front and the remainder over the following 12 months.

Meanwhile, another South African businessman, Vivian Imerman, has insisted he has no interest in buying a stake in Newcastle United.

The former owner of Del Monte, who has since invested in Scottish whisky producer Whyte and Mackay, denied he was part of the consortium which is interested in taking over at St James' Park.

However, that has done little to stem the speculation, and he has moved again to distance himself and his company Vasari, from the ongoing situation on Tyneside once and for all.

A spokesman said: "Vivian Imerman can re-confirm that he has no involvement whatsoever with any proposed purchase of Newcastle United nor any other football club.

"Neither Vivian Imerman nor Vasari the investment company Vivian heads, has any interest in investing in football clubs."


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