SBD/Issue 2/Franchises

EPL Club Newcastle Owner Mike Ashley Confirms Plan To Sell Club

Ashley Confirms Plans To Sell Newcastle United
English Premier League (EPL) club Newcastle United Owner Mike Ashley said that he "wants to sell the club," according to the LONDON TIMES. Ashley in a statement said, "I paid [US$238.2M] out of my own pocket for the club. I then poured another [US$195.5M] into the club not to pay off the debt but just to reduce it. The club is still in debt. ... I shall be paying out many more millions over the coming year to pay for players bought by the club before I arrived. But there was a double whammy. Commercial deals such as sponsorships and advertising had been front loaded. The money had been paid upfront and spent. I was left with a club that owed millions and part of whose future had been mortgaged." Ashley: "I have really loved taking my kids to the games, being next to them and all the fans. But I am now a dad who can't take his kids to a football game on a Saturday because I am advised that we would be assaulted. Therefore, I am no longer prepared to subsidise Newcastle United" (LONDON TIMES, 9/14). Ashley said he was "prepared to bankroll Newcastle up to the tune of [US$35.6M] per year, but no more" (London INDEPENDENT, 9/15).

POTENTIAL SUITORS: In London, Rob Stewart reports Newcastle VP Tony Jimenez has "flown to the Middle East to spearhead Ashley's attempts to off-load the club." Dubai Int'l Capital (DIC), which has attempted to buy EPL club Liverpool, "will only be interested in taking the club off [Ashley's] hands at a knock-down price." And Indian businessman Anil Ambani has "publicly ended his interest after failing to get a response from the club" (London TELEGRAPH, 9/15). In Manchester, Louise Taylor reports it is "understood that Ashley tried to make contact with representatives of [DIC] last week." Meanwhile, another possible buyer is Chinese property developer Xu Rongmao, who is "seemingly keen to exploit" Newcastle's stadium grounds by "redeveloping the high-value land around the ground" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 9/15). The TELEGRAPH's Stewart notes other possibilities include Microsoft Chair Bill Gates and former Newcastle Chair Freddy Shepherd, who was banned from the team's stadium under Ashley but "last night claimed he had been approached by two separate consortia to spearhead a takeover" (London TELEGRAPH, 9/15).

Liverpool Fans Hoping Gillette, Hicks
Become Next Owners To Sell Team
ATTENTION TURNS TO LIVERPOOL: In London, Oliver Kay wrote with Ashley confirming his intention to sell Newcastle and former EPL club Manchester City Owner Thaksin Shinawatra earlier this month selling that club, all the EPL "needs now is for that pair of cowboys at Liverpool to be chased out of town and [the league] will have the early-season hat-trick it wanted." Liverpool co-Owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett "know that their time is up and, whatever their denials, are looking for a way out." But "until then, the club will continue to limp on without leadership, without direction, without a proper business plan and without any hope of the new stadium that is so fundamental to their long-term financial growth" (LONDON TIMES, 9/14).

AMERICAN FLAVOR: The trend of Americans buying EPL teams was examined by the N.Y. TIMES' PLAY magazine's Joe Nocera, who notes in addition to Hicks and Gillett, Buccaneers Owners the Glazer family owns Manchester United, Browns Owner Randy Lerner owns Aston Villa, and Nuggets and Avalanche Owner Stan Kroenke owns 12% of EPL club Arsenal. Nocera writes Americans have "become fixated on" the EPL partly because "soccer is the most global sport with the greatest reach," and partly because "they think they can make more money there than they can in American leagues like the NFL or the NBA." But the appeal is "mainly because, to a surprising degree, they can act far more like old-fashioned two-fisted capitalists in England than they can" in the U.S. The EPL does not have a salary cap like the NFL and NBA do, and in the U.S., "there are limits on how much teams can market themselves outside the umbrella of the league; the [EPL] has far fewer restrictions" (PLAY, 9/ '08 issue).

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