Newcastle's Saudi takeover is 'complicated', admits Richard Masters

Newcastle’s £300m Saudi takeover is ‘complicated’, admits Premier League CEO Richard Masters – as MPs ask how ‘grizzly’ Prince Mohammed bin Salman could become an owner but singer Louis Tomlinson was blocked from buying Doncaster in 2014

  • Richard Masters has been grilled over Newcastle’s proposed £300m takeover 
  • MPs questioned how Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s bid could be approved
  • Bin Salman has been implicated in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters was left flustered following a grilling from MPs over the controversial £300million takeover of Newcastle United by ‘grizzly’ Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Masters was grilled at the Department of Culture and Sport by Scottish National Party (SNP) member John Nicolson over how the Premier League could approve Bin Salman’s bid, considering that he has been implicated in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi – a dissident journalist for the Washington Post – in October 2018. 

Nicolson also pointed out how ex-One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson was blocked from buying Doncaster Rovers in 2014, but Bin Salman could very well pass the league’s ‘fit and proper’ person’s test. 

Premier League chief Richard Masters was grilled over the Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle

SNP member Jack Nicolson questioned how Mohammed bin Salman’s £300m bid could be approved with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia implicated of murder

The Crown Prince has denied he was personally involved in ordering Khashoggi’s killing, previously calling the crime ‘heinous’. 

Nicolson asked: ‘You could find yourself in a position where Louis Tomlinson has been blocked from taking over a club but the grizzly Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is implicated in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, who was lured into Saudi embassy and was then murdered and chopped up into little pieces, could find him (bin Salman) passing the fit and proper test and taking over a club.

‘That would be humiliating for you, surely? I just can’t imagine where a person who is implicated in murder can take over an English club?’ 

Masters refused to be drawn in on the ‘confidential process’ regarding Khashoggi’s death.

Mohammed bin Salman (pictured) was implicated by the United Nations and CIA in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident journalist for the Washington Post

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside a Saudi embassy in October 2018

Masters replied: ‘You’re really asking me to comment on a confidential process and I simply can’t do it.’ 

Tomlinson, who was a part of a consortium with the club’s former chairman John Ryan to take over Doncaster Rovers, saw his bid fall through due to ‘minor issues’ with the singer’s image rights. 

Masters was then asked when the Premier League can expect to announce the results of the takeover bid for Newcastle. 

The deal, which is being brokered by Amanda Staveley, has been awaiting Premier League approval for 13 weeks which has raised questions over why the process is taking so long.

Masters said: ‘There’s no timetable within which the board considers takeovers. There’s no timetable set as part of the rules. There is no particular timetable for how long these things take. Some takeovers are straight-forward, others aren’t.

‘Sometimes things get complicated. There are legal requirements in place that need to be observed.’

Ex-One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson was blocked from buying Doncaster Rovers in 2014

The state-owned Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia want to take an 80 per cent stake in the Magpies but the deal has been met with opposition from the Premier League’s broadcast rights holders.

Premier League lawyers have been in dispute with the Saudis for three years in an attempt to clamp down on the illegal broadcasting of games.

However, Masters admitted it is difficult to keep supporters up to date on the ongoing details of the deal. 

Masters added: ‘I appreciate the uncertainty. I cannot comment in terms of timing of the specifics on any takeover.

‘In a perfect world takeovers would happen cleanly, clearly and in a timely fashion. Sometimes things get complicated.

‘It is an entirely confidential process which involves all sorts of due diligence and the application of the owners and directors tests.

The Saudi Public Investment Fund, led by Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan (pictured), is fronting up 80 per cent of the money for the takeover

Newcastle are still awaiting news on whether the proposed takeover is permitted 

‘We have always said those processes are confidential and when they drag on there is a requirement for information. It is a relatively rare occurrence.

‘It is difficult to keep a constant dialogue with fans on what is an entirely confidential process.

‘It is difficult to make any comment on something that is confidential. We can’t provide a running commentary on things. I can’t talk about the specifics.

‘There are legal requirements in place that need to be observed. It is difficult. It is an entirely confidential process.’

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