Saudi wealth fund buys England’s Newcastle United soccer club after months of wrangling

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  • A major obstacle to the purchase of the English team by the Saudi Public Investment Fund was the concern over the involvement of the Saudi state in the team’s affairs.
  • An earlier buyout deal was abandoned in 2020 after the consortium could not prove sufficient separation between itself and the Saudi kingdom, which is led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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A Saudi consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund has successfully bought England’s Newcastle United soccer team after an 18-month-long dispute.

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A major final hurdle was overcome on Thursday when the Premier League received a legally binding assurance from the Saudi Kingdom to guarantee “separation” and that it would not control the 128-year-old soccer club.

The purchase, for a reported £300 million ($409 million), would end British billionaire businessman Mike Ashley’s 14-year ownership of the team, and would give 80% ownership to the Saudi consortium, and 10% of the assets to developers Simon and David Reuben and the other 10% to PCP Capital Partners of British investor Amanda Staveley.

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A major obstacle to the purchase of the English team by the Saudi Public Investment Fund was the concern over the involvement of the Saudi state in the team’s affairs.

An earlier buyout deal was abandoned in 2020 after the consortium could not prove sufficient separation between itself and the Saudi kingdom, which is led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Another barrier preventing the Saudi-led group from taking on Newcastle United was also lifted on Thursday: a broadcast complaint from neighboring Qatar’s Middle Eastern Premier League rights holder beIN Sport, which had four years on the sports channel from Saudi Arabia. There was a demand to lift the ban.

Restrictions related to Qatar’s now-resolved blockade of the Gulf Kingdom have now been lifted, allowing Premier League, UEFA and FIFA matches to be re-telecasted. Saudi Arabia has also promised to shut down pirate websites in the kingdom that show BIN content without the broadcasters’ consent.

Following the news announcement, PIF chief Yasser Al-Rumaiyan said in a statement: “We are extremely proud to be the new owners of Newcastle United, one of the most celebrated clubs in English football. We thank Newcastle fans for their tremendous loyalty. Thank you for the support. Over the years and we are excited to be working with them.”

new owners with deep pockets

Ashley’s departure has been long awaited by fans, who believe the retail magnate’s stint with cost-cutting has devastated the team’s performance and reputation. But the Saudi takeover is not without its controversy.

Saudi Arabia is known for its poor human rights record and for spearheading the bombing campaign on Yemen, which the United Nations has called one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

Rights organization Amnesty International on Thursday urged the Premier League to prioritize human rights issues and “sportswashing”.

Amnesty International’s UK chief executive, Sacha Deshmukh, said in a statement: “Ever since the deal was first talked about, we’ve said it was a combination of the glamor of top-flight football by the Saudi authorities for their appalling human rights. represents a clear effort to sport the record.” .

It is unclear whether Newcastle fans at St James’s Park take special issue with Saudi rights records. But reports so far suggest that they are looking at new investors with deep pockets to rehabilitate a team that was ousted twice under Ashley’s leadership.

Alan Shearer, one of the team’s most loved former players, tweeted upon hearing the news: “Ysssssss. We can dare to hope again.”

Newcastle’s official Twitter account posted a tweet that read “Newcastle United” along with two heart emojis in the team’s colours.

Saudi PIF, which sits at $430 billion in assets, is on a mission to diversify its holdings as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 initiative. Some of its significant investments over the past two years include large stakes in Carnival Cruises, Bank of America, Walt Disney, Marriott International, and Facebook.

A statement from the Saudi-led consortium on Thursday called the “investment group” “long-term, patient investors who have full confidence in the club’s future success.”

“Today’s announcement is the conclusion of a thorough and detailed process that has allowed the investment group to reach a deal that benefits all stakeholders and Newcastle United to pursue a clear, long-term strategy,” the statement said. Will leave you in good condition.”

PIF’s Al-Rumayun will serve as non-executive chairman of Newcastle United. Stavley, head of PCP Capital Partners, will have a seat on the board, while Jamie Reuben will also be a director of the club representing RB Sports & Media.

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