Mike Ashley is in talks to sell Newcastle to the Saudi Arabia sovereign-wealth fund, it has been claimed.
The influential Wall Street Journal are reporting the Saudi’s are considering buying the Tyneside club for £340m.
It is the latest stage of Saudi Arabia focusing on sports and entertainment as part of economic reforms to improve the countries standing.
The WSJ are reporting that the prospective buyer is the Public Investment Fund, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s key investment vehicle.
Newcastle fans will be sceptical after several years of aborted or false claims being made from parties said to want to buy the club.
There have been many businessmen trying to scrape together the cash to meet Ashley’s demands, but he has pledged only to sell if to someone with the clout to invest and revamp the club.
The financier Amanda Staveley is mentioned by the WSJ as organising investors to join the buy-out. She has lurked for a couple of years, including claiming bids had been made, but never been able to strike a deal.
A Saudi buy out would be controversial and reopen the debate about the nation’s “sportswashing” using events like golf and boxing to improve the country’s image.
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered when visiting the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, leading to international condemnation.
The human rights abuses in Saudi, including beheadings, could lead to protests from fans if a takeover happened.
Newcastle have yet to comment on the claim.
Ashley, who bought United for £134m and has loaned the club £110m, met Steve Bruce two weeks ago and sanctioned January transfer plans.
The club is looking secure in the Premier League and likely to avoid relegation, making it a more saleable asset.