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Sat 18 Jul 2020 10:10 AM

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US media boss preps charm offensive for rival Newcastle Utd bid

A consortium led by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund and billionaire brothers David and Simon Reuben is currently awaiting Premier League approval

US media boss preps charm offensive for rival Newcastle Utd bid

American businessman Henry Mauriss is preparing a charm offensive in the UK as he pushes ahead with his rival offer for Newcastle United Football Club, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mauriss is discussing hiring a public relations adviser to help sell the merits of his proposal to acquire the soccer team, the people said, asking not to be identified as discussions are private. He’s seeking to raise the profile of his bid with Premier League officials and Newcastle United supporters, according to one of the people.

The US investor, who is chief executive officer of media group ClearTV, isn’t a well-known figure in Britain. He has already met Newcastle United’s billionaire owner Mike Ashley to discuss his bid, the people said.

Mauriss is prepared to offer 350 million pounds ($441 million) for the team, according to one person. That would top the 300 million-pound proposal from a consortium of investors led by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which Ashley accepted earlier this year.

While Newcastle United fans have been supportive of the Saudi bid, hopeful that it will provide the surest way to inject funds into the club, there’s no certainty that deal will go through. The Premier League, which has the final say on takeovers of the UK’s top teams, has spent months deliberating the suitability of the proposed new owners.

Mauriss didn’t answer calls seeking comment. Representatives for Ashley did not respond to requests for comment by phone and text message. A representative for the Saudi-led consortium declined to comment.

Newcastle is one of the UK’s best-supported teams, regularly drawing crowds of more than 50,000 to its stadium in northeast England. Ashley has proven a divisive figure for its supporters during his 13 years in charge.

Angered by perceived mismanagement, fans staged boycotts and protests at home games prior to the coronavirus lockdown and will expect any new owners to invest in players to make the club more competitive. Newcastle has not won a major trophy for more than 50 years. Newcastle sit in 13th place in the Premier League table, with only two games left of the disrupted 2019/2020 campaign, meaning the club will remain in Europe’s richest soccer division next season.

The consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund also includes British businesswoman Amanda Staveley and billionaire brothers David and Simon Reuben.

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