The first time Mike Ashley tried to sell Newcastle United it didn’t quite go to plan. After acquiring total shares in the Magpies for £134.4m in 2007, Ashley found himself reconsidering his investment just 16 months later following the departure of the hugely popular manager Kevin Keegan.
Rumours had circulated for some time that Keegan was unhappy with the degree to which director of football Dennis Wise was interfering in team matters. In September 2008 Keegan brought his concerns to Wise and managing director Derek Llambias and was given his marching orders there and then, much to the outrage of fans. As owner, the backlash landed at Ashley’s door.
“I have listened to you. You want me out. That is what I am now trying to do,” Ashley wrote in a statement announcing he had put the club up for sale, adding that he had been advised he would be assaulted should he bring his children to a match.
But, after hiring a London-based law firm to sell the club, and reportedly travelling to the Middle East to solicit potential buyers, Ashley announced in December that the club was no longer for sale after he had failed to source a buyer.
Fans remained divided. Former Newcastle player and coach Peter Beardsley, however, urged them to give Ashley a second chance. “He came here with the right intentions…We are a big club and we need a big owner, and he is certainly that,” he said.
12 years, ten managers, two relegations and hundreds of millions of pounds later, with a deal to sell Newcastle all but completed, St James’s Park’s “big owner” is set to finally leave the club behind for good.
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