Billionaire businessman Mike Ashley has bought a 41.6 per cent stake in Newcastle ahead of a proposed takeover of the Premiership club.
Ashley, who in February floated Sports Direct, has paid Sir John Hall and his family £55million for the stake. He has offered to buy the rest of the club’s shares at the same price, which would value the St James’ Park club in the region of £133million.
Former Newcastle chairman Hall, who will remain life president, has welcomed the prospect of a handover.
“It is now time for me to move on and let others take up the challenge of competing in the global marketplace,” said Hall.
“Mike Ashley is a major player in the sporting world and I am convinced that he is the right person to take my place and take the club forward.”
Stock Exchange rules mean that St James’ Holdings Limited, Ashley’s company, must now make a cash offer for the remaining shares, around 29.8 per cent of which belong to chairman Freddy Shepherd who has repeatedly stated his intention to hold on to his shares.
“Newcastle United has a wonderful heritage and the passion of its fans is legendary,” Ashley said in a statement.
“I am sure that, like me, they are already excited about the prospects for next season under the new manager’s stewardship,” he said referring to Sam Allardyce, appointed last week after he resigned from Premier League rivals Bolton Wanderers in April.
“I am pleased that Sir John has agreed to remain as life president of the club,” he added.