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Page last updated at 16:23 GMT, Sunday, 14 September 2008 17:23 UK

Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale

Mike Ashley
Mike Ashley took control of Newcastle in May 2007

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is ready to sell the troubled club following a series of protests by angry supporters.

Having pumped about 250m into the Magpies, billionaire Ashley says he is now unable to watch the Newcastle team due to fears over his family's safety.

"I'm now a dad who can't take his kids to a football game because I am advised that we would be assaulted," he said.

"I am no longer prepared to subsidise Newcastle," added Ashley, who has been under pressure since Kevin Keegan quit.

Keegan left his position as manager after just eight months on 4 September, claiming he had no control of transfer dealings at St James' Park.

His departure prompted a number of protests against Ashley and the Newcastle board of directors, culminating in demonstrations in and outside the ground before, during and after Saturday's 2-1 home defeat to Hull.

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Those protests appear to have been the tipping point for Ashley, who has decided to put the Premier League club up for sale just 16 months after his 134.4m takeover of the club.

"I am putting the club up for sale. I hope the next owner is someone who can lavish the amount of money on the club that the fans want," said Ashley.

Ashley, 43, issued an emotional 1,644 word statement on Sunday in which he spoke of his pride at owning the club.

Fans' protests made Ashley decide to sell

Since taking control of the Magpies, he has made a point of standing with the fans rather than sitting in the director's box but says he no longer feels it is safe for him to do so.

It was this 'special' relationship with the fans that influenced his decision to hand Keegan a second chance to manage the club following the sacking of Sam Allardyce.

Keegan took charge in January 2008 but eventually left citing boardroom differences, much to the anger of the majority of Newcastle fans.

Most of that anger was directed at Ashley and Dennis Wise, the club's executive director of football.

"I am not stupid and have listened to the fans," said Ashley, who insisted he bore no ill will to Keegan.

"I don't want anyone to read my words and think that any of this is an attack on Kevin Keegan. It is not," he added.

"Kevin and I always got on. Everyone at the club, and I mean everyone, thinks that he has few equals in getting the best out of the players.

"He is a legend at the club and rightly so. Clearly there are disagreements between Kevin and the board and we have both put that in the hands of our lawyers."

Signs of a split first surfaced towards the end of the January transfer window when the club sold James Milner to Aston Villa for 12m.

Michael Owen, Joey Barton and Alan Smith almost followed and it was Keegan's lack of control over these dealings that angered him.

I shall be paying out many more millions over the coming year to pay for players bought by the club before I arrived

Mike Ashley

Keegan also became frustrated with the lack of new faces at St James' Park despite the summer arrivals of Fabricio Coloccini, Jonas Gutierrez and Xisco.

But Ashley claimed that there was only so much money he could spend on the club without plunging Newcastle into further debt.

This was a philosophy not shared by Keegan or the club's supporters who were eager for big names to arrive at St James' Park.

"The truth is that Newcastle could not sustain buying the Shevchenkos, Robinhos or the Berbatovs," said Ashley.

"My plan and my strategy for Newcastle is different. It has to be.

"Arsenal is the shining example in England of a sustainable business model. It takes time. It can't be done overnight."

In his statement, Ashley revealed just how much he has spent in his tenure but insists he did not buy Newcastle to make money and will not leave them in the lurch.

Indian businessman Anil Ambani publicly ended his interest last week while Chinese billionaire Xu Rongmao has also been linked with a bid.

"I paid 134m out of my own pocket for the club," said Ashley.

"I then poured another 110 million into the club not to pay off the debt but just to reduce it. The club is still in debt.

"Even worse than that, the club still owes millions of pounds in transfer fees. I shall be paying out many more millions over the coming year to pay for players bought by the club before I arrived."

He added: "I have put Newcastle on a sound financial footing. It is reducing its debt. It is spending within itself. It is recruiting exciting new players and bringing in players for the future.

You want me out... that is what I am now trying to do but it won't happen overnight and it may not happen at all

Mike Ashley statement

"This will not be a fire sale. Newcastle is now in a much stronger position than it was in 2007. It is planning for the future and it is sustainable.

"I am very conscious of the responsibility that I bear in owning Newcastle United. Tough decisions have to be made in business and I will not shy away from doing what I consider to be in the best interests of the club. This is not fantasy football.

He added: "I have the interests of Newcastle United at heart. I have listened to you.

"You want me out. That is what I am now trying to do but it won't happen overnight and it may not happen at all if a buyer does not come in.

"You don't need to demonstrate against me again because I have got the message."




see also
Mike Ashley statement
14 Sep 08 |  Newcastle
Newcastle 1-2 Hull
13 Sep 08 |  Premier League
Ince rules out job at Newcastle
13 Sep 08 |  Newcastle
Keegan & Ashley in surprise talks
12 Sep 08 |  Newcastle
Poyet plays down Magpies rumours
09 Sep 08 |  Tottenham
Magpies hit back at Keegan claims
06 Sep 08 |  Newcastle
Fans' fury at Keegan exit
04 Sep 08 |  Newcastle
Reaction to Keegan's resignation
04 Sep 08 |  Newcastle
Newcastle get 133m buyout offer
23 May 07 |  Business
Keegan resigns as Newcastle boss
04 Sep 08 |  Newcastle


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