SOCCER

Mike Ashley claims he had face-to-face talks with Yasir Al-Rumayyan over keeping Newcastle’s 10% stake

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Mike Ashley claims he had one-on-one talks with Yasir Al-Rumayyan over maintaining a 10% stake in Newcastle United after a takeover – and insists the Investment Fund Governor public (PIF) of Saudi Arabia was “open” to this proposal.

In her latest High Court filing, in her litigation against Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi, Newcastle co-owners Ashley, through her company, St James Holdings Limited, cites a meeting with Al-Rumayyan at a hotel in Ascot, England, last September.

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The retailer and Justin Barnes, his close confidant and the man responsible for facilitating the sale of the club, were at the Berkshire site ‘two weeks before completion’ of the £305million takeover, which was finalized on October 7, after an 18-month long saga, according to the document.

The couple are said to have met two Premier League representatives: Gary Hoffman, the chairman, and Peter McCormick, the chairman of the organisation’s legal advisory group. On September 29, Ashley’s Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) case against the Premier League began – but it was dropped once the takeover was finally cleared eight days later.

Ashley insists that ‘when the main body of the meeting (with the Premier League) ended’ he and Barnes spoke with Al-Rumayyan in a ‘separate property’ from the hotel, where the Premier League governor was staying. BIP. It is claimed they raised with Al-Rumayyan ‘the possibility of Mr Ashley retaining 10%’ of the club and that he ‘expressed his openness to this but would need to confirm this with the other members of the consortium’ .

Staveley, who has a 10% minority stake in the club, then reportedly informed Ashley that Al-Rumayyan, who became Newcastle chairman after the takeover, was ‘opposed’ to the businessman retaining a stake but that he has not received “direct confirmation of this alleged change of position” from PIF.

Ashley is suing Staveley and Ghodoussi for the immediate repayment of a £10m loan made during the takeover to cover legal and other fees, plus accrued interest, claiming the terms were breached when Staveley said that she was ‘eager’ to remove the Sports Direct signage in St James’.

One of the terms stated that the parties agreed not to “make any statement or comment derogatory or otherwise in bad faith with respect to the other party or otherwise bring the other party into disrepute”.

Staveley insists she intended to convey that she was looking forward to severing the association between Ashley and Newcastle. The financier and her husband, Ghodoussi, deny Ashley’s allegations.

After initially setting out her case in the High Court of Justice in London on December 29 – to which Staveley and Ghodoussi filed a defense on February 12 – Ashley filed an amended claim last month, with the co-owners’ amended defense then submitted. June 24.

In their interview with Athleticism in February, Ghodoussi and Staveley were asked about Ashley’s original claim. “We are really disappointed and we will vigorously contest it,” Ghodoussi said. “We thought we had a good relationship with Mike. To his credit, he pushed very hard to get this deal done. We couldn’t have done it without him. He always said he wanted to sell the club to the right people and he sold the club to the right people. We never said anything negative about him.

“I’m saddened,” Staveley said. “It’s really a shame because I like him a lot. And I’m proud of what we’ve done.

On the £10million loan, Ashley’s original filing claimed that “PCP and the first defendant (Staveley) were also unable to meet advisory, legal and other fees and commissions associated with PCP’s participation in the SPA (Sale and Purchase Agreement).Therefore, and in order for the entire transaction to proceed, Plaintiff agreed to loan to First Defendant the funds necessary to pay the invoice for PCP.”

“As the defense says, we incurred costs that benefited the entire consortium,” Staveley said four months ago. “Mike really wanted a deal done very quickly and that meant we made a decision that meant he could do it quickly. We took on that burden.

(Photo: Getty Images)

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