By Joe Harker
At last the news Newcastle United fans have wanted to hear for so long, Mike Ashley is selling up and the club should be under new ownership by the end of the year! Four different parties have reportedly made bids of over £300 million in an attempt to buy the Premier League side that has been owned by Ashley since 2007.
The current owner of the club, also the owner of Sports Direct and House of Fraser, has been widely unpopular during his tenure as Newcastle have been relegated twice and failed to break a transfer record set before his arrival. Poor decision making and woeful levels of investment compared to other Premier League sides have been hallmarks of Ashley's time in charge. Newcastle are a sleeping giant of English football in dire need of investment Ashley never looked willing to provide.
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has said that attempts to sell the club must not interfere with transfer business in January. Ashley wants to sell up before the end of 2018 but there was a similar situation last year where a takeover almost occurred but ultimately came to nothing, disrupting transfer plans. Some of the players also admitted that the previous talk of a takeover had distracted them.
Benitez wants more money to improve the squad, something he was promised in the summer but did not receive. He said: "I will say that I hope it will not be a distraction.
"Why? Because the players know that they have to perform. When we say, 'Business as usual' it's because we know that it will not change our plans. Our plans are to look for the transfer targets. It depends who is there and who is available."
The Independent reports that any takeover will see Ashley and his Sports Direct company make a "clean break" from the club, meaning the many Sports Direct products and adverts would be gone with no obligation to stock them.
A consortium lead by Peter Kenyon is reportedly closest to striking a deal to take over Newcastle United. Ashley recently said discussions over selling up "are at a more progressed stage than they have ever been" and the BBC reports that he was likely referring to Kenyon's consortium with those comments.
While both parties might want a deal done before the new year that could be difficult as it can take around two weeks to conduct the necessary checks and processes of transferring ownership. It would be "optimistic" to predict Newcastle would have a new owner by the end of 2018 but it is not impossible.