Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Kuwaiti Magnate Linked to Magpies

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Kuwaiti Magnate Linked to Magpies

Article excerpt

Byline: Luke Edwards

AS Mike Ashley continues his search for an Arab billionaire to buy Newcastle United, Kuwait businessman Nasser Al Kharafi is the latest name to be linked with a possible takeover.

With Ashley apparently determined to make a large profit on the sale of Newcastle United - despite his supposed determination to hand over control of the club following a fans' revolt against him - United are not attracting much interest among the wealthy elite of the Middle East.

Sources in Dubai have indicated Ashley is asking a massive pounds 480m to sell a club he paid just pounds 130m for 16 months ago. Although Ashley also had to invest another pounds 110m to stabilise a spiraling debt, he would still make a huge profit if he can find anyone to pay his alleged asking price.

In truth, however, that looks extremely unlikely despite a suggestion from an intermediary working on his behalf that Al Kharafi is interested in becoming Newcastle's new owner.

The intermediary said: "Nasser Al Kharafi has the money to buy the club, but the way Mike Ashley is going about things is wrong.

He is actually putting off any interested buyers with the price and his refusal to negotiate. If he genuinely wants to sell he is going about it the wrong way.

"At the last estimate Nasser was worth around USEUR12bn, but he still won't pay over the odds for the club. Mr Ashley seems to think he can ask what he wants because he is dealing with people who are multibillionaires, but that simply isn't the case.

As things stand he will be returning to England without a buyer."

Those comments were followed by the now popular claim that a new regime would look to reappoint Kevin Keegan as manager, but given the number of false links over the last few days it remains to be seen whether anything concrete happens.

As the world's 29th richest man, the 63-year-old Kharafi, who made his money in the construction industry and who also owns a number of American fast food franchises across the Arab world, certainly has the money needed to finance a takeover.

But there is a growing sense of desperation surrounding Ashley's trip to Dubai and financial experts in the Middle East doubt whether the sports retailer will be able to attract a buyer quickly. …

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