Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ashley Bids [Pounds Sterling]133m for Newcastle Utd

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ashley Bids [Pounds Sterling]133m for Newcastle Utd

Article excerpt

BILLIONAIRE entrepreneur Mike Ashley today launched a shock [pounds sterling]133 million bid for Newcastle United in the latest bout of takeover fever to grip Premiership football.

The owner of the Sports Direct retail chain paid [pounds sterling]55 million for the 41% stake held since the late 1980s by club patriarch Sir John Hall and his family.

He is launching a full takeover offer that, fans may hope, will finally bring success to a longmoribund team. It will also probably end the involvement of the Shepherd family in the club.

Freddy Shepherd - the Newcastle chairman who briefly had to quit the board in 1998 after being taped calling Newcastle women "dogs" - has a 28% stake but has not yet decided whether to accept the offer.

The shares rose from 84p to 96p after the announcement - below the value of the offer - indicating that the City thinks Ashley will win his prize.

Ashley netted [pounds sterling]929 million from a partial float of his Sports Direct empire earlier this year, but quickly earned the ire of investors after the shares plunged and information from the company was deemed to be in short supply.

Newcastle United itself hasa far-from-stellar reputation in the City, owing to its lax approach to following rules about when it is supposed to declare significant information.

Buying a business that excites such passions and such close attention as Newcastle seems an odd move for a man as notoriously secretive as Ashley.

He said today: "Newcastle United has a wonderful heritage and the passion of its fans is legendary. I am sure that, like me, they are already excited about the prospects for next season under the new manager's stewardship." Newcastle just sacked Glen Roeder and replaced him with Sam Allardyce in an attempt finally to bring honours to a team that is well supported but relentlessly underperforming. …

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