Ashley will not sell Newcastle for less than 100m
MIKE ASHLEY will meet representatives of Tyneside businessman Barry Moat at the start of next week to discuss the future ownership of Newcastle United. But while Moat is hoping to complete a proposed takeover of the Magpies as quickly as possible, a South African consortium has emerged as a possible competitor to the North- Easterner. The unnamed South African group has been conducting due diligence on Newcastle United in recent weeks. It is yet to provide proof of funding, but is regarded as a serious bidder rather than a consortium seeking publicity. As a result, it could yet become a rival to Moat, but unless either party is willing to commit £100m, Ashley is ready to reject all offers in the hope of Newcastle reclaiming their Premier League status this season. Moats formal offer is believed to be less than the £100m asking price Ashley has been demanding, and with the Magpies currently three points clear at the top of the Championship table, there is every chance that the current owner will opt to sit tight. Promotion will see the value of the club double. Moat remains optimistic that a deal can be agreed, and the lifelong Newcastle fan overcame a significant hurdle at the end of last week when Barclays Bank guaranteed that he would be provided working capital with which to run the club. Barclays had initially refused to transfer Newcastles current overdraft facility, which is worth around £25m, as Moat could not provide the same level of personal guarantees as Ashley. He has been courting financial investment from a number of American sources in recent weeks, however, and those talks appear to have come to fruition. Nevertheless, he has been unable to meet all of Ashleys demands, most notably regarding price, and a resolution to the current impasse is far from guaranteed. Ashley is more unpopular than ever on Tyneside following the revelations that accompanied the end of Kevin Keegans constructive dismissal case, but having ridden out a series of crises during his ill-fated reign, the sportswear magnate is prepared to ride out the current storm. Ironically, Ashleys intransigence could prove beneficial to interim manager Chris Hughton, who has successfully steered the Magpies to the top this season. Alan Shearer would be Moats preferred choice of manager, and Hughtons position would be under immediate threat if there was a change of ownership. If I worried about things like that, I would drive myself mad, said Newcastles longtime caretaker boss. The new speculation is nothing I have been told about by anyone at the club, so I am just getting on with my job. I dont know what would happen if there was a change of ownership. The way for me to deal with it is to just get on with my job. Hughton will spend the rest of the week doing exactly that, and having previously ruled Shola Ameobi out of action until the New Year, the Magpies manager is now hoping the striker will be fit to return by early December. Shola has had no adverse reaction to the original injury and hes started doing work on it again, he said. Hes with us over this fortnight and hes continuing to work at it. Were thinking it should be early December at the moment which would obviously be a big boost for everyone because he is a big player for us.
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