The fund, which is chaired by the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, is reportedly backing a deal alongside Dubai-based British financier, Amanda Staveley; her husband, Mehrdad Ghodoussi; and British billionaire property investors, David and Simon Reuben.
British newspaper the Guardian has reported that the deal, which values the Premier League club at UK£340 million (AUD$656.8 million), is ‘90 per cent certain’ to happen. A shell company, PZ Newco, was registered by Staveley to facilitate a potential investment on 6th January. PZ refers to Project Zebra – the code name for the planned Newcastle takeover.
The Magpies’ current owner, retail tycoon Mike Ashley, could sign off on an agreement very much in the short-term, according to the Guardian. However, Ashley has reportedly been unhappy with the massive leak and could potentially put the takeover in jeopardy.
It is also reported that Staveley hopes to assume a ten per cent stake in the final agreement. The exact level of Saudi involvement is uncertain, with the Athletic reporting that the Reuben family represent 20 per cent of the consortium.
According to the Guardian, due diligence has been completed and advanced talks have been ongoing for months. Staveley, who has failed with bids for Newcastle before, reportedly approached the Saudis regarding investment and is seeking to be the face of the club post-takeover.
The involvement of the PIF, one of the world’s largest investment operations, is controversial due to Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record, lack of women’s rights, violent media suppression and its association with Islamic fundamentalism.
If an agreement is struck, it is reported that UK£200 million (AUD$383.6 million) has been allocated for investment in Newcastle’s playing squad and regeneration of the city.
If this big-money agreement goes through, it will give a significant boost to a club that has fallen in recent times compared to its former glory. The club currently sits 14th on the EPL table after 24 matches played, just seven points clear of the relegation places.