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Thursday, December 17, 1998 Published at 18:31 GMT


Business: The Company File

Media group buys Magpies stake

St James' Park - could have new owners in 1999

US based communications group NTL has emerged as the mystery bidder stalking Premier League football club Newcastle United


BBC Media Correspondent Torin Douglas: Not Time-Warner, but another large US media group
The media and telecommunications group, which is the UK's third largest cable company, has bought a 6.3% stake in the club in what may be the first step towards a £160m takeover.

The deal could end the involvement of the Hall family in the club. Former club chairman Sir John Hall has ploughed millions of pounds into Newcastle United in recent years to help restore its fortunes. However his son Douglas was shamed earlier this year after insulting fans and Newcastle's leading players.

NTL has come to an agreement with Cameron Hall Developments (CHD), the Hall family's business, which could see it buy a majority stake in the club.

Confident of success

American Barclay Knapp, president and chief executive of NTL, said he was confident the takeover would go ahead.

However on the stock market Newcastle shares were down 2p to 100p, well below the potential offer price of 111.7p, reflecting investors scepticism that the deal will be concluded.

The cable group said that no decision on whether to mount a takeover bid would be made until the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, the UK's competition watchdog, rules on BSkyB's attempt to buy Newcastle's rival Manchester United.

Once the ruling has been made public, NTL will have 12 weeks time to ponder its move into the world of football, according to its contract with CHD. If the deal goes ahead, Cameron will get £81m for its 50.8% share, a price some analysts believe to be on the high side.

Turbulent times


[ image: Freddy Shepherd and Douglas Hall: Their return prompted resignations]
Freddy Shepherd and Douglas Hall: Their return prompted resignations
CHD is now owned by Douglas Hall, who has returned to the board of Newcastle plc along with Freddy Shepherd, after being forced to step down earlier this year for insulting comments about the club's supporters.

Their return prompted the resignation of former Newcastle plc chairman Denis Cassidy and directors John Josephs and Tom Fenton, along with the club's stockbrokers, BT Alex Brown.

The agreement between CHD and NTL is binding on both companies until March, but could be extended if the takeover deal is also referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

"We are pleased to welcome NTL as a shareholder. Recent events at Newcastle United have created uncertainty for the company and the club," said the club's chief executive, Freddie Fletcher.

"The board believes today's announcement is an important step towards securing the long-term success of Newcastle United."





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