The marathon takeover saga at Newcastle took another twist on Friday night with a New York investment fund dealing direct with owner Mike Ashley in an attempt to fast-track the sale of the club.
It has been claimed their negotiations had reached the stage of a sale and purchase agreement with the Americans, having satisfied Ashley they have the necessary £100million funding to complete the deal.
But the situation — as ever during Ashley’s regime — is by no means clear as the Americans, represented by Manchester law firm Halliwells, are bypassing the official selling agents Seymour Pierce and conducting their business with Ashley’s London legal advisers Travers Smith.
The middle man in the deal is businessman Geoff Sheard, a former commercial director at Preston, who has kept in the background to avoid any publicity after an attempt to buy Sheffield Wednesday proved unsuccessful.
Stockbrokers Seymour Pierce don’t regard Sheard as a serious buyer, having not been satisfied with his proof of funding.
But a spokesperson for Ashley said last night that Sheard’s consortium were being treated as genuine buyers, yet had ground to make up on Newcastle businessman Barry Moat’s bid.