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SBD Global/July 17, 2014/Franchises

British Billionaire Marwan Koukash Eyes National Rugby League Side Newcastle Knights

Billionaire English racehorse owner Marwan Koukash confirmed on Wednesday his interest in becoming involved with a National Rugby League club -- either as a 100% owner or in partnership -- "amid speculation he was circling the Newcastle Knights," according to Read & Honeysett of THE AUSTRALIAN. Former Newcastle player turned Triple M commentator Matthew Johns revealed on Sydney radio that Koukash "was keen to extend his portfolio to the NRL." Koukash: "All I have been saying is I am interested and have started talking to an NRL team. It's still in the early stages and it's not fair to give any further details." Pressed on why he was so "keen to be involved" in the NRL, Koukash revealed that "he was actually looking at more than one team." Koukash said, "I love being in Australia. ... At this point in time I am not releasing anything about the team because there is more than one team" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 7/17). In Sydney, Adrian Proszenko reported former Australian Rugby League CEO John Quayle said that "Newcastle should be wary of embracing new private owners" amid speculation Koukash wants to buy the NRL franchise. Just weeks after the club severed ties with Nathan Tinkler's Hunter Sports Group, "another self-made millionaire with a penchant for horses and football clubs is reportedly interested in taking over the Knights." Quayle, who has been engaged by the ARL Commission to help Newcastle through its transitional ownership period, "warned about the perils of private ownership when the right corporate structures are not in place." Quayle said, "Here it is again, someone who puts his hand up. Tell him to go to the league [NRL] and give them a non-refundable cheque of A$100 million [$94M]. Then the league might talk to him" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 7/16). The AAP's James Macsmith wrote whether Knights' fans would welcome another cashed-up owner after the failed experiment with Tinkler "remains to be seen." But Knights Members Club Chair Nick Dan, whose organization holds a 20% stake in Newcastle and ensured safeguards such as the A$10M bank guarantee were in place when Tinkler took over in '11, said that "it was likely to be a case of once bitten twice shy for Knights' fans." Dan said, "I think they would be very, very apprehensive after the failed experiment from the past few years. There are much more ownership benefits in the community model for the fans and for Newcastle and it makes for a much stronger business" (AAP, 7/16).
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