Shearer Newcastle future in balance as takeover talks open that could spell end of Ashley
Newcastle are continuing to talk to Alan Shearer about the club's future as it emerged they could yet be sold. The 38-year-old held lengthy talks with owner Mike Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias over his future at the training ground yesterday, with the Magpies later confirming that discussions would continue. However, it is understood at the same time, Keith Harris, chairman of investment bank Seymour Pierce, which was engaged to sell the club last year, had also travelled to the north-east to hold talks with a potential buyer. Harris is believed to have discussed the club with representatives of a consortium who could be interested in launching a bid. He scoured the world looking for buyers after being asked to do so by Ashley in the wake of Kevin Keegan's departure as manager last September with Newcastle fans in open revolt. Seven different consortia were provided with prospectuses outlining details of the club's financial standing, with groups from Nigeria and South Africa having been linked with buy-out bids. However, in the event, none of the interested parties came up with an acceptable deal and Ashley took the club off the market at the end of December, vowing to drive the club forward. He appointed Shearer as short-term manager in April after Joe Kinnear underwent heart surgery, but even he could not prevent Newcastle slipping out of the top flight at the end of a turbulent campaign. Relegation could cost the Magpies an estimated £50million, and has significantly reduced the market value of a business for which the owner paid an initial £134.4million two years ago before ploughing in another £110million to address its debts and reshape the squad. Whether or not Shearer is appointed manager, whoever is in charge will have to severely trim a wage bill of more than £70million and rebuild the team for a very different challenge in the Coca-Cola Championship.
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