A consortium, led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and including PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media, has completed the acquisition of the English Premier League’s Newcastle United for £300 million ($409 million), according to a statement from the league. The EPL said it received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control the club.
The group purchases the club from British billionaire Michael James Wallace Ashley, who bought Newcastle for £134 million in 2007. Ashley and PIF have been in talks since 2018, but the deal was stalled because Saudi Arabia suspended beIN, the official broadcaster of the EPL in the Middle East and North Africa region, in 2017. The Qatar-based sports broadcaster and the Qatari government were at odds with their Saudi neighbors over the blockage. The Newcastle deal moved forward quickly after the Saudi government reversed its ban on the broadcaster on Wednesday. Al Jazeera reported that Saudi officials settled related legal cases with beIN “including a $1 billion investment arbitration.”
According to Simon Chadwick, director of the Centre for the Eurasian Sport Industry at EMlyon Business School, Saudi Arabia’s aspirations are likely to go beyond the purchase of Newcastle. “Inter Milan or Marseille are rumored to be PIF acquisition targets, joining Newcastle in a global franchise network,” he said.
Chadwick expects the NUFC acquisition to bring similarly lucrative revenues to its Saudi investors as Abu Dhabi’s Manchester City and Qatar’s Paris Saint-Germain acquisitions. “Ten years ago, [PSG’s] annual revenues were less than €100 million; now they exceed €600million and will surely surpass €1 billion by 2030.” City Football Group, which owns Manchester City and New York City F.C., has become a global entertainment franchise valued at $3 billion.
Newcastle United announced the details of the deal and its new board of directors in a statement. The governor of PIF, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, will serve as non-executive chairman of the club. The chief executive of PCP Capital Partners, Amanda Staveley, will have a seat on the board, while Jamie Reuben of RB Sports & Media will be a director.
“We intend to instill a united philosophy across the Club, establish a clear purpose, and help provide leadership that will allow Newcastle United to go on to big achievements over the long term,” Staveley said in a statement. Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners acted for Abu Dhabi’s Sheik Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s purchase of Manchester City Football Club in 2008.
“Saudi Arabia’s 2030 National vision didn’t come until 2016-2017. They have been slow, but its near neighbors have set the template,” Chadwick said. “Saudi Arabia is reportedly creating a new airline to compete with Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways.”
Saudi Arabia was also the driving force behind the biennial World Cup project at the last FIFA summit in May, hoping to speed up the process to meet its 2030 goals.