In the glamorous world of football, Newcastle United’s game on Saturday against fellow Premier League laggard Swansea City is hardly a clash of titans.
But in the winter chill of industrial northeast England, the result could help to determine the sale price of the last heavyweight English football club yet to be snapped up by a wealthy investor from overseas.
Newcastle’s owner Mike Ashley has been negotiating with a possible buyer, said to be prepared to bid about £250m.
Then the math got more complex. A winless streak saw the team slide down the league. Being dumped out of the world’s richest football competition could halve the club’s valuation, according to people close to potential bidders.
It leaves any investor at risk of losing the cachet of the Premier League, and that threat already deterred at least one. Blackbridge, which helped broker the recent sale of lower-ranked Barnsley to a group including the US baseball executive and “Moneyball” star Billy Beane, had been acting for a potential bidder from the United Arab Emirates, according to a person familiar with the situation.
“The risk of being outside the top flight makes any sale more complicated, as buyers may be less willing to conclude a deal without comfort that the team is safe,” said Daniel Geey, a partner at sports and media law firm Sheridans.
Newcastle has been ripe for a takeover. The city oozes football, though has seen little success of late. Fans pack the 52,000-capacity downtown stadium – and boost the Premier League’s television viewing figures.
Yet their idols in black-and-white striped shirts last lifted a trophy in 1969, and famous supporters like musician Sting say it’s time to win another one.
Most of the other major English clubs were bought by wealthy foreign buyers over the past dozen years. As Chelsea was taken over by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, Manchester United by the Glazer family and Liverpool by the owners of the…