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Newcastle takeover by Saudi fund ‘90% certain’

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth Public Investment Fund (PIF) has been identified as a major partner in the latest takeover bid for top-tier English Premier League soccer club Newcastle United, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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.

Liam Watson is the Managing Editor at Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy, industry matters and technology.

Acun Medya Group secures Hull City takeover

EFL Championship side Hull City AFC has been purchased by Turkish production company Acun Medya Group, headed by Acun Ilicali.

EFL Championship side Hull City AFC has been purchased by Turkish production company Acun Medya Group, for a fee in the reported region of $37 million AUD.

Acun Ilicali, a 52-year-old businessman and owner of Acun Medya Group, was introduced to fans at the MKM Stadium prior to the club’s 2-0 win at home over Blackburn Rovers.

The takeover brings the controversial ownership of the Allam family to an end, much to the delight of fans after a roller coaster 11 years in charge.

Despite overseeing two promotions to the Premier League, an FA Cup Final and Hull’s first-ever foray into a European competition through the UEFA Europa League in 2014, the Allam family became increasingly unpopular with the fans.

The unpopularity of the Allam family is due to many different reasons, however it all started when the family proposed a name change to ‘Hull Tigers’ back in 2013. The move was ultimately blocked by authorities a year later, which frustrated the Allams and they then put the club up for sale, straining the relationship with fans and seeing a decline in attendances at home fixtures.

The new ownership will look to win back supporters and turn the negative tide.

Acun Medya Group Owner, Acun Ilicali:

“I am happy that I have fulfilled one of my biggest dreams. We are starting a beautiful journey with Hull City. We have many big dreams and goals to achieve together with our fans,” he said.

Outgoing Vice-Chairman Ehab Allam:

“During our tenure, we have worked hard to create a sustainable model and successful academy set-up, giving the club the foundations it needs for the future,” he said.

“There have been lots of ups and downs over the last 11 years or so, but we will take some very fond memories with us… We have taken a very business-led approach to running the club and I truly hope Acun can rebuild the relationship with the fanbase and also bring back the success on the pitch that fans crave and deserve.”

Hertha Berlin pushing hard for stadium upgrade

Top-flight German football club Hertha Berlin has reiterated its intention to develop a new stadium nearby to the Olympiastadion.

Top-flight German football club Hertha Berlin has reiterated its intention to develop a new stadium nearby to its current home, the Olympiastadion, releasing fresh renderings of its vision for such a project.

The club has been attempting to progress plans to develop a new home for several years and in February 2020 stated that the OlympiaPark would be the preferred location.

In November 2018, Hertha confirmed it was targeting an opening date in July 2025 for a new-look Olympiastadion, with preference to be building a completely new stadium rather than renovating the current one.

The current Olympiastadion has been home to Hertha Berlin for almost 60 years, and has a capacity of around 74,000. However, the club is seeking a more intimate stadium for its fans, as well as the inclusion of an athletics track.

Hertha’s former stadium commissioner, Klaus Teichert, withdrew an application for a decision to be made on the location for a new stadium, with Brandenburg also put forward as a potential location.

Hertha Berlin Chief Financial Officer, Ingo Schiller:

“We have entered into talks with the new government and are working hard to set the course for our new stadium in 2022,” he said.

“The stadium is the club’s most important project, especially in terms of the economic situation.”

There is a lot of political support necessary for the project to get approved, as the potential worksite currently includes residential apartments, a big reason for negotiations coming to a stall at times.

A resident spoke to local radio station rbb24:

“You talk about ir, but not with us. We are still not prepared to sell our apartments in Sportforumstraße or to negotiate about them,” they said.

“It is very unfortunate that our residents in Sportforumstraße are once again unsettled by this uncoordinated approach.”

Hertha Berlin and backers of the new stadium have been in negotiation with Berlin’s sports senator, Iris Spranger, with talks to continue over the next month.

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