Belfast Telegraph

Newcastle closing in on takeover deal - reports

Mike Ashley is close to selling Newcastle to Amanda Staveley in a deal worth around £300million, according to reports.

Significant progress appears to have been made in recent days and it has been claimed that the two parties are ready to do business after weeks of talks.

However, sources close to the negotiations have insisted no agreement is yet in place and nothing has been signed.

Newcastle were not commenting on the matter on Wednesday afternoon as manager Rafael Benitez prepared his team for their Premier League clash with Everton.

A successful conclusion to the discussions would come as a huge boost to the Spaniard, who was left frustrated during the summer when Ashley admitted he could not afford to give him the backing he needed to take the club to the next level in the wake of promotion back to the top flight.

He revealed on Tuesday that he hoped to be given answers on his spending power or lack of it in January within days, and positive developments on the takeover front would only be good news for him.

It would also answer the prayers of the club's support, sections of which have enjoyed a fractious relationship with the current owner during his 10-year-plus reign on Tyneside.

Staveley's group, which is thought to be backed by money from the Middle East and China, is one of a series of prospective buyers which signed non-disclosure agreements with the club earlier this year.

It made a formal offer for the club last month which is understood could have eventually amounted to £300million, but only if a series of clauses - including one guarding against the repercussions of relegation - were met, and there have been suggestions since that an alternative lower cash bid was also tabled.

That came nowhere near meeting the sportswear magnate's requirements, although crucially the lines of communication remained open.

Ashley, who indicated when he invited offers for the club in October that he would be prepared to accept payment in a series of instalments, and Staveley were photographed leaving a north London restaurant last week, sparking hopes of a breakthrough.

Any deal is still some way from being completed and would have to be ratified by the Premier League, a process which means Ashley's initial intention to offload the business by Christmas will not be realised.

Ashley bought the club for £134.4million and made interest-free loans of around £129million in 2007.

Newcastle have twice been relegated during the Sports Direct owner's tenure, during which his efforts to make the club self-sufficient have produced profits, but little success on the pitch.

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