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Saudi fund chief set to chair Newcastle after takeover

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The head of Saudi Arabias sovereign wealth fund, Yasir Al Rumayyan, is set to be named as non-executive chairman of Newcastle United if it acquires the historic English soccer club, according to people familiar with the takeover talks.

Jamie Reuben, the son of billionaire businessman David Reuben, and Amanda Staveley, the financier who courted a deal with Newcastle United on behalf of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, are also in talks for board seats, said the people, who declined to be named as the discussions are private.

The talks are back on after more than a year's delay now that Saudi Arabia is close to formally lifting a ban on broadcaster BeIn Media Group, a move first reported by Bloomberg.

Qatar-based BeIN has been a major opponent of a Newcastle takeover, arguing to the U.K. Premier League that the Saudi ban and alleged piracy of BeIn content was doing massive damage to sports rights holders.

The Saudis walked away from the Newcastle talks in July 2020, citing prolonged regulatory issues and the pandemic.

Staveley and Reuben are currently in talks for a 10% stake each in the team, with PIF taking a majority 80% shareholding, the people added.

Reuben was a non-executive director at west London soccer club QPR before stepping down in October 2020, according to the team's website.

Representatives for the Premier League, which has one of its largest broadcast contracts with BeIn, were not immediately available for comment. Spokespeople for the PIF and Reuben could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for Staveley declined to comment.

 

 

The new owners will take control at Newcastle a few weeks into the season, with the team currently positioned one place above the bottom. Each year, three out of the Premier League's 20 teams get relegated, with a consequent drop in broadcast and other income.

The deal is being welcomed by the club's long-suffering fans, while alarming human rights activists who have been pressing the international community to isolate Saudi Arabia over its treatment of government critics, women's rights campaigners and other groups.

In return for recommending the Newcastle deal, the Premier League is expected to accept assurances from PIF that its interest in Newcastle United will be run separately from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, said a person familiar with the process.

Published : October 08, 2021