Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

United Sale Is on Verge of Collapse; United Sale on Verge of Collapse

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

United Sale Is on Verge of Collapse; United Sale on Verge of Collapse

Article excerpt

Byline: Luke Edwards

THE sale of Newcastle United appeared to be on the verge of collapse last night as Mike Ashley prepares to take the club off the market for the second time in less than a year.

With talks between Tyneside businessman Barry Moat and Ashley's camp stuck in a disheartening stalemate, there is a growing sense of desperation surrounding the attempt to sell the club. The Journal understands there have even been attempts to attract fresh interest by offering the club for a down payment of pounds 20m with another pounds 80m due to be paid to Ashley in 12 months' time.

That desperation is reflected in an increasingly exasperated Alan Shearer, who cannot believe the situation remains as shambolic now as it did when Ashley put the club up for sale back in May.

Although Seymour Pierce - the bank put in charge of the search for a buyer by United's owner - are ready to recommend an offer from Tyneside businessman Barry Moat as their preferred bid after months of sluggish negotiations, Ashley remains reluctant to sell for anything less than the pounds 100m he initially asked for. Moat is backed by anonymous American investors, but he has still not put together a package able to satisfy Ashley's strict financial demands because the club's wage bill means Newcastle's operating loss this season could be as high as pounds 30m.

That has led to growing tension between Seymour Pierce and the Ashley camp. The bank are convinced they have got the best deal they could in the present financial climate and are frustrated by Ashley's stubborn stance.

That raises the very real possibility of the sale being cancelled after Ashley took a similar step when he could not find a buyer back in December.

Sources have already tried to play down Moat's interest and are privately briefing he does not have enough money to go through with any deal.

Moat, though, is continuing to try to break the deadlock and attended a series of meetings with Newcastle's managing director Derek Llambias yesterday in the hope of reaching a compromise. Those talks will resume this morning.

If Moat's bid is not accepted, it is understood there are no serious alternative bidders. …

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