Exclusive: Newcastle next in line for Indian takeaway
Published 23:01 12/03/11 By Brian McNally
Newcastle United are the target of a £200million-plus Indian takeaway.
A billionaire businessman from the sub-continent is ready to try and tempt Toon owner Mike Ashley with an offer to make the Magpies the second Indian-owned Premier League club following the sale of Blackburn Rovers to the Rao family.
The Sunday Mirror has learned that intermediaries acting for the wealthy Indian have already begun preparatory work for a deal and have visited Tyneside.
But the prospective buyer won’t put his bid on the table until Magpies Premier League status is mathematically secured.
Ashley paid £134m for the club in 2007 and with another £111m personally owed to him it would take a minimum bid of £200m-plus to even interest him.
Indian sources suggest that Anil Ambani, head of the huge Reliance ADA group and one of Asia’s wealthiest businessmen, could be poised to rekindle his interest in Newcastle after backing off from negotiations in September 2008 when Ashley first put the Tyneside club up for sale.
He pulled out of a deal – estimated then at £260m – due to the uncertainty at Newcastle following the departure of manager Kevin Keegan. But Anil’s older and even richer brother Mukesh Ambani, with whom he recently made peace with after years of business animosity, has also been looking at acquiring a Premier League club and tried to buy Liverpool last year.
Another Indian with designs on a top English club is Subrata Roy of the Sahara Group.
He was interested in Liverpool before it was sold to US-based New England Sports Ventures and was a bidder for Manchester United’s shirt sponsorship before it went to Aon.
It now remains to be seen, however, whether Ashley is willing to cash in after reviving Newcastle.
When he last put the club up for sale in 2009 following relegation to the Championship the asking price was just £100m and even then he couldn’t find a buyer with falling gates, heavy losses and a wage bill of more than £70m.
But the rejuvenated Magpies are now 10th in the Premier League, gates are the third highest in England and the accounts have a far healthier look after a slashing of the wage bill over the last 18 months.
Manager Alan Pardew said: “Mike will only do sell if it allows the club to be in a much better financial position than it is now.”