By Tim Parsons-
Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is preparing for a legal battle with the Premier League over the collapse of a Saudi-backed takeover.
Ashley has instructed lawyers Blackstone Chambers over a row with the governing body after Amanda Staveley’s consortium withdrew its £340milion offer in July, following a 17-week wait, which was ultimately in vain.
The Premier League and Newcastle United are at war over the failed takeover which the PIF withdrew from in July, citing delays and post-COVID economic problems.
Newcastle issued a statement last week accusing chief exec Richard Masters of acting inappropriately, claiming the league had rejected the deal “in its owners and directors test.”
The Premier League hit back insisting the “test” stage, overseen but the board not Masters personally, had yet to be reached.
Last Wednesday, Ashley attacked the Premier League for rejecting the deal but they hit back, accusing the Sports Direct chief of lying.
This morning, London firm Blackstone confirmed they are working with Ashley.
They said: “Shaheed Fatima QC and Nick De Marco QC are acting for Newcastle United FC and Mike Ashley (instructed by Dentons) in a dispute with the Premier League about its rejection of a takeover bid made by PCP Capital Partners, the Reuben Brothers and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) based on its Owners and Directors test.”
De Marco has advised and acted for a number of sports governing bodies, athletes, most Premier League football clubs. He is also said to have represented many world-class football players in commercial and regulatory disputes.
“He regularly appears in the UK Courts and football, rugby, cricket, boxing, athletics, horseracing, doping and a number of other arbitral and disciplinary tribunals, including CAS in Switzerland.
Blackstone was instrumental in the legal battle with Manchester City, as they fought Uefa in the Court of Arbitration (CAS) for Sport over the summer to overturn a two-year ban from European club competitions.
Uefa’s Feburary ban came after they ruled City had committed “serious breaches” of Financial Fair Player regulations between 2012 and 2016
But in July, CAS confirmed that the club were cleared of “disguising equity funds as sponsorship contributions.”
A statement on the firm’s official website on Monday said: “Shaheed Fatima QC and Nick De Marco QC are acting for Newcastle United FC and Mike Ashley (instructed by Dentons) in a dispute with the Premier League about its rejection of a takeover bid made by PCP Capital Partners, the Reuben Brothers and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) based on its Owners and Directors test.”
Newcastle claimed last Wednesday that the bid had been rejected by the Premier League, who insisted the following day that it had not.
Having taken legal advice as he attempted to resurrect the deal, Ashley accused the governing body of not acting “appropriately” in repeatedly seeking further clarification over the relationship between the Saudi state and the PIF, a major stumbling block alongside the issue of TV piracy.
The Premier League responded by insisting the proposed takeover could only proceed to a suitability assessment once “all appropriate information” had been provided and repeated its offer of independent arbitration, something which had already been rejected by the prospective buyers.