Whilst speculation around WWE owner Vince McMahon’s interest in buying Newcastle may have been a tall story, there were elements that may in fact be true. Reports surfacing last weekend suggested that the Wrestling magnate was eying up the opportunity to purchase the controlling stake in Newcastle from current owner Mike Ashley. Whilst the story carries about as much weight as the paper it was written on, the truth behind the lies is that Ashley is looking to sell Newcastle and has been for some considerable amount of time. Having never gained the Geordie faithful’s love and support; Ashley has grown tired of his toy and is looking to move on once he can find someone to reimburse his investment. Various potential suitors have come and gone but none have match Ashley’s expected price of £267 million. This would cover his initial investment of £134m and the further investment in the form of interest free loans to the sum of £150m. Only someone with considerable wealth, like billionaire Vince McMahon, would have the deep pockets to pay the initial asking price and then another $50-100million in needed player and infrastructure costs. Players in particular is something that manager Alan Pardew and the fans would love to see materialize given the recent history.
Newcastle fans have been dismayed by the lack of transfer activity over the past two windows with players being sold but only loan signings arriving. Added into this, they have had to endure a calamitous last eight months listening to Joe Kinnear drone on about how connected he was and how he would bring the world’s best players to Newcastle. Neither was true and Kinnear departed on Feb 1st apparently with his tail between his legs. But in fact, given Ashley’s desire to sell, the truth may simply be that Kinnear did what he was told to do – nothing. Why would someone desperate to ditch the business he owns invest heavily in new employees? Yes he reached into his pocket in January last year to bring in six new players including Mathieu Debuchy, Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko but he needed to in order to halt the slide towards another relegation. At the heart of this was money, and the realization that if Newcastle were to fall back into the Championship once again, the value of the club and the potential to find a buyer would dramatically diminish. A Newcastle side in the Premiership after all is a far more appealing prospect and gives Ashley a better chance of making his targeted sell price.
As this January’s transfer window opened, Newcastle were sitting comfortably in mid table after a strong start to the season which saw them lose only six games. Ashley knew that he did not need to spend any money to keep them in the league as the team was stronger than the likes of Fulham, Crystal Palace and Hull so the drop was unlikely. Pardew cried out for support but Ashley was nowhere to be found, instead leaving Kinnear to be the face of Newcastle’s apparent transfer negotiations. Weeks went by and no one arrived but interest in star player Yohan Cabaye intensified. Newcastle eventually buckled and sold their principle asset for around £23million but Ashley had no intention of re investing this cash, instead lining his pockets with it. Newcastle has since been on a slump, hurting badly in shape due to the departure of their talisman. Successive defeats to Sunderland, Chelsea and Tottenham have highlighted the need for reinvestment but Newcastle fans would be wise not to hold their breaths waiting for this to happen.
Ashley is in a selling mode, with his only focus being offloading the club he has become bored of. Appointing a Director of Football to replace Kinnear or even sacking Pardew is not on his priorities as it just adds more work where none is needed. Ashley will want to secure a buyer before the summer as spending on new players to keep the investment value high enough to justify his asking price will be needed. For bewildered Newcastle fans, finding a new owner must also be their main focus, someone who wants to be at the club and sink their money into taking Newcastle to the next stage. Finding that person will not be easy but if it ends up being someone like Vince McMahon then they may just have to grapple with that as anything is better than what they have right now.