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Oct 15, 2008

Harris: Next Newcastle owner will not be British

The man charged with brokering the sale of Newcastle United has said that it is almost certain that the new owner will hail from overseas and has insisted that there has been no indication from any interested party that Kevin Keegan's return to St James Park is central to their plans.

Last month Keith Harris, chairman of investment bank Seymour Pierce chairman, was appointed by Newcastle owner Mike Ashley to identify a suitable buyer for the club.

On Wednesday Harris confirmed that proposals from seven parties are under consideration, but revealed that neither of the previously reported bids from South Africa and Nigeria has declared serious interest.

Harris confirmed conversations took place with individuals from South Africa, but does not expect them to develop, saying: ''We need to distinguish between interest and serious interest.''

''I think it is certainly likely that the next owner of Newcastle will come away from these shores,'' said Harris, who claims much of the wealth and will to buy into English football is centred in either the Middle or Far East, or the USA, though would not be drawn as to location of the main bidders.

''Whether it is the Middle East is another matter,'' he told Sky Sports News. ''But it is a reasonable assumption to say the new owner will not be from Britain.

''We have had now, for seven or eight days, seven interested parties. They are not from these shores, and that is not surprising. Within that group, we have taken the chance to start honing down the list - so far nobody has dropped out.''

As for the possible return of Keegan for a third stint as manager, Harris remains unsure, saying: ''Nobody has said to us that is a condition for us to go forward. Nobody has said, as a pre-condition, it is this manager or that manager.''

Keegan left the club last month after alleging board intrusion into transfers - and the shock appointment of Joe Kinnear was subsequently announced, in the role of interim manager.

''Joe Kinnear has done a pretty good job in the short period of time he has had,'' Harris said. ''Whoever is the new owner, it would be their choice of the management team on and off the field.''

Harris also sought to clarify the reported valuation of Newcastle. Saying that ''£400million sounds like an exaggeration'' before agreeing that £300million was nearer the mark.

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