Newcastle found themselves engulfed in claim and counter-claim on Friday following the apparent collapse of Amanda Staveley’s proposed takeover.
In an interview with the Times, Staveley insisted her bid for the club remains on the table, and described suggestions from the Mike Ashley camp that her PCP Capital Partners group were time-wasters as “hugely hurtful”.
Staveley claims to have made offers of £300million and £350million, both of which included clauses aimed at guarding against relegation and the impact of any penalty imposed as a result of an ongoing HMRC investigation, and a third of £250million with no strings attached.
She said in the interview: “I’m very much still interested in buying Newcastle. And our bid remains on the table.
“This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”
However, Press Association Sport understands that while Ashley does not dispute that the offers were made, he insists all three included caveats which rendered them unacceptable, and it is for that reason that he insists there is no credible proposal currently on the table.
The Sports Direct tycoon pulled out of talks on Tuesday evening – it is understood there had been no dialogue between two sides since before Christmas – with a source close to him describing the negotiations as “exhausting, frustrating and a complete waste of time”.
Ashley’s decision took Staveley, who sees the retention of manager Rafael Benitez as key to the club’s future, by surprise.
She said: “I’m very concerned, I’m very surprised and I’m disappointed about what’s been said this week. The suggestion that we were either wasting time or not serious is absurd. It’s hurtful. Hugely hurtful.”
The news that talks had broken down was greeted with fury by fans who had hoped Ashley’s decision to put the club up for sale in October after admitting he could not afford to take it to the next level would signal a new era after more than a decade of under-achievement.
A statement released by the Ashley Out campaign said: “It is time for him to negotiate seriously with Ms Staveley (or other serious interested parties if they exist) to allow a worthy custodian to take over Newcastle United to begin to rebuild itself as the football club we love and know it can become.”
Sources on Tyneside have insisted the lines of communication with PCP are currently closed, although the Magpies are still for sale.
In the meantime, managing director Lee Charnley and Benitez have been given the go-ahead to bring in reinforcements on the playing front during what remains of the January transfer window in a bid to stave off relegation with the club sitting just three points clear of the Premier League drop zone.
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