SPORTS Direct owner Mike Ashley’s fortune looks set for another battering after the football club he owns, Newcastle United, was relegated from the Premier League.
Ashley’s club stands to lose at least £30m a season from a drop in TV revenue which will wipe millions off the value of the struggling north east outfit, in the latest blow to his personal fortune which has already been slashed by £698m since 2008 due to property slumps and share losses.
Ashley bought the club for £134m in the summer of 2007, before pumping a further £100m into it, and formally put the club back up for sale last September with a price tag of £400m.
Ashley was forced to put the Tyneside club back on the market with help from Seymour Pierce, following a backlash by fans angry at the departure of glorified manager Kevin Keegan, who was at loggerheads with Ashley and other directors.
Newcastle United’s 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on Sunday – caused by an own goal – saw the club drop out of the top tier for the first time in 16 years. At Championship level, the club will earn £30m less in TV rights than its Premiership counterparts, as well as projected gate losses which result from playing against less glamorous opponents.
Ashley has failed to find a buyer since putting Newcastle up for sale just 15 months after buying the club, and the cost of demotion will make a takeover even less attractive. The club’s prospects, and its value, are likely to rest heavily on whether temporary boss Alan Shearer stays in charge.