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Last Updated: Friday, 15 June 2007, 17:59 GMT 18:59 UK
Ashley boosts stake in Newcastle
Mike Ashley
Mike Ashley is a man who has been keen to stay out of the spotlight
Billionaire businessman Mike Ashley is on course to withdraw football club Newcastle United from the stock market after lifting his stake to 77.06%.

Mr Ashley said he would push ahead with plans to raise his stake to the 90% or more needed to force the remaining shareholders to sell their stakes.

He bought a 41.6% stake from the family of Sir John Hall through his company St James Holdings Limited in May for 55m.

Mr Ashley runs the Sportsworld chain and Lillywhites.

Newcastle is the latest club to succumb to a takeover as investors are lured by the world's richest football league.

In the past few years, investors, mostly from overseas, have swooped for clubs including Manchester United, Liverpool, Aston Villa and West Ham.

'Cash cows'

After buying a 41.6% stake in the club, Mr Ashley launched a 133.1m ($263m) offer for Newcastle.

The 42-year-old later convinced chairman Freddy Shepherd to sell his 28% stake in the Premiership football club - a purchase that was completed on Friday.

The cancellation of Newcastle's listing is expected to take place on 18 July.

Analysts said that football clubs were seen as cash cows by many investors, especially after they re-negotiated overseas TV rights.

Despite not winning any silverware since 1969, apart from being awarded the Intertoto Cup in 2006, Newcastle is one of the UK's best-known and best-supported clubs, giving owners a large market for merchandising.

Magpies

Newcastle is Europe's 13th wealthiest club by annual revenues.

The club, famous for its black and white strip and Magpies nickname, parted company with previous manager Glenn Roeder on 6 May.

Former Bolton boss Sam Allardyce was named as his successor on 15 May and has since signed striker Mark Viduka from Middlesbrough and Manchester City midfielder Joey Barton.

Scott Parker, Titus Bramble, Antoine Sibierski, Craig Moore and Olivier Bernard have left the club as Allardyce rebuilds a team that finished last season in 13th place in the Premier League.

Allardyce and former Newcastle boss Graeme Souness were both named in Lords Stevens final report into alleged transfer irregularities, published on 15 June.

The report suggested a perceived conflict of interest with Allardyce and his former agent son Craig when Sam was in charge at Bolton Wanderers.

Stevens also reported "inconsistencies in evidence" provided by the former Newcastle boss Souness and Kenneth Shepherd, son of Magpies chairman Freddy Shepherd.


SEE ALSO
Transfer probe queries 17 deals
15 Jun 07 |  Football
Ashley to take over Newcastle Utd
07 Jun 07 |  Business
Profile: Mike Ashley
23 May 07 |  Business
Shepherd shocked by Newcastle bid
24 May 07 |  Newcastle United
Newcastle get 133m buyout offer
23 May 07 |  Business

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