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Oct 13, 2008

Harris optimistic of finding a buyer for Newcastle

Keith Harris, the chairman of investment bank Seymour Pierce and the man charged with arranging the sale of Newcastle United, is optimistic he will find a buyer for the Premier League club.

The former chairman of the Football League was appointed by Newcastle owner Mike Ashley last month to identify potential buyers for the club and on Monday told the BBC: ''I'm quietly confident there'll be a good solution for Mike and the fans.''

Billionaire Ashley, who is understood to have lost at least £300 million as a result of the current global economic downturn, is eager to sell the club after falling out of favour with Newcastle supporters following the resignation of former manager Kevin Keegan.

There has been interest from abroad in a takeover of the St James Park club, though Ashley was initially unimpressed that suitors were not prepared to meet his £400 million valuation of the Magpies, who sit third-bottom in the league and are helmed by an interim manager, former Wimbledon boss Joe Kinnear.

However, despite the current financial climate and Newcastle's on-field problems, Harris remains upbeat, saying: ''In his time of owning it, Mike has cleaned up the balance sheets and Newcastle is one of the few clubs that has no debt whatsoever, so that makes it very attractive to an incoming owner.''

Although it has been reported that prospective bidders have been given until 17 October to register an interest in the club, which is thought to be available for around £300 million, Harris said Ashley has no timeframe in mind for the sale.

Over the last few years Harris has established himself as the 'go-to' man for clubs hoping to arrange a big-money takeover after advising on the sale of Aston Villa to American investor Randy Lerner in 2006 and Manchester City to former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2007.

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