Newcastle United could have a new owner in place by the time the January transfer window opens after Mike Ashley confirmed he is looking to sell the Premier League club.
Retail billionaire Ashley, who is the owner of sportswear chain Sports Direct, has been a hugely divisive figure on Tyneside since taking control of the Magpies in 2007.
His tenure has been littered with supporter protests against the way he has run the club and has included two relegations to English football’s second tier, although under Rafael Benitez Newcastle currently sit ninth in the top flight.
“As one of the Premier League’s oldest and best supported football clubs – and for the benefit of its many fans and supporters in the United Kingdom and across the world – Newcastle United requires a clear direction and a path to a bright and successful future,” read a club statement.
“To give the club the best possible opportunity of securing the positioning and investment necessary to take it to the next level, at what is an important time in its history, its present ownership has determined that it is in the best interests of Newcastle United and its fans to be put up for sale.
“To give an incoming owner the maximum possible flexibility to make meaningful investment in the club including in its playing squad, the sale process will give interested parties the opportunity of deferring substantial payments.
“A process will now commence of identifying new ownership for the club that will be capable of delivering the sustained investment in and dedication to the club that is necessary for it to achieve its ambitions.”
Ashley has put Newcastle up for sale previously, firstly in the wake of fan uproar following Kevin Keegan’s departure as manager in September 2008. The club was taken off the market in December of that year.
An announcement was then made in May 2009 following the club’s relegation to the Championship that Ashley once again wanted to sell, although he ended his latest attempt within five months.
Financier Amanda Staveley was present at Newcastle’s 1-1 home draw with Liverpool earlier this month.