The Saudi Public Investment Fund came close to acquiring the ownership of Newcastle Football Club, one of the most prestigious English clubs, after providing legal documents to the official authorities in Britain yesterday.
The club's owner, Mike Ashley, rejected many offers during his 13-year reign, and witnessed several problems, including an offer made in 2017 by Amanda Staffeli and BCB Partners with the latest offer to buy the club.
Ashley, owner of the Sports Direct apparel chain, bought Newcastle in 2007, for 134.4 million pounds (about 152 million euros). Since then, he has faced the wrath of the club's fans, who see him as not investing enough in players.
Ashley entered into negotiations to sell Newcastle, in exchange for $ 429 million with the Saudi Investment Fund, which was willing to pay most of that amount in cash. Legal documents appeared on Tuesday, which constitute a framework for negotiations between the Saudi Public Investment Fund and Ashley.
The Wall Street Journal indicated that the Saudi group, led by Staffeli and supported by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, had entered into negotiations with the owner of Newcastle over the past four months.
The move comes in light of the increasing Saudi investments in sports, which fall within the framework of the Kingdom's "Vision 2030" to diversify sources of income and reduce dependence on oil revenues.
In the past months, Saudi Arabia hosted a series of sporting events such as the Italian Super Cup and Spanish football, in addition to the Dakar Desert Rally early this year.
By investing in sport, Riyadh hopes to give a boost to its endeavor to attract tourists by opening its doors to foreign visitors. And the kingdom started late last year for the first time in its history issuing tourist visas to the citizens of 49 European, American and Asian countries. It is noteworthy that the Sheffield United club in the Premier League is owned by Saudi Prince Abdullah bin Mosaed.