Saudi wealth fund buys England’s Newcastle United soccer team after months of wrangling

A Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Newcastle United at Molineux on October 02, 2021 in Wolverhampton, England.

Naomi Baker | Getty Images

A Saudi consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has successfully purchased England’s Newcastle United soccer team after 18 months of protracted disputes. 

A major final obstacle was overcome Thursday when the Premier League received legally-binding assurances from the Saudi kingdom guaranteeing “separation” and that it will not control the 128-year-old soccer club. 

The purchase ends British billionaire businessman Mike Ashley’s 14-year ownership of the team, and will give the Saudi consortium 80% ownership, with a further 10% going to the property developers Simon and David Reuben and another 10% to British investor Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners.

A major obstacle to the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s buyout of the English team was concern over the Saudi state’s involvement in the team’s affairs.

An earlier buyout deal was ditched in 2020 when the consortium couldn’t prove sufficient separation between themselves and the Saudi state, which is led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

Another barrier preventing the Saudi-led group from taking over Newcastle United was also lifted Thursday: A broadcasting complaint from neighboring Qatar’s Middle Eastern Premier League rights holder beIN Sport, demanding that Saudi Arabia lift its four-year ban on the sport channel.

The ban, related to the Gulf kingdom’s now-resolved blockade of Qatar, is now lifted, allowing Premier League, Uefa and Fifa matches to be aired again. Saudi Arabia has also promised to close pirate websites in the kingdom that showed beIN content without the broadcasters consent. 

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