Newcastle remains up for sale despite the collapse of talks with Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners.
Owner Mike Ashley called a halt to negotiations which had been ongoing with PCP since November yesterday evening as sources close to him dismissed them as "a complete waste of time".
It is understood there had been no contact between the two parties since before Christmas, and that the sportswear magnate had lost patience with both the public nature of the pursuit and a lack of tangible progress.
Sources close to the Staveley camp insisted in the wake of the development that their offer - which was not credible in Ashley’s eyes, not least because it included a series of clauses, one of which would guarantee a sizeable refund in the event of relegation - was still on the table and that they had not walked away.
The club remains on the market and an offer to accept payment in instalments over a fixed period is also still available.
However, Ashley has let it be known that he will only consider potential buyers who are serious in intent and who can prove it by demonstrating that the finance is in place to do a deal.
He is also determined that any negotiations will be conducted in private, as was the case when he launched his £134.4m takeover back in 2007.
PCP were one of several parties to sign non-disclosure agreements with the club after it was put up for sale in October last year, and some are understood to be monitoring the current situation, although none are anywhere near as advanced in their interest as Staveley’s group.
Ashley will continue to seek a buyer and is no less determined to sell, although he has left prospective purchasers - including PCP if they choose to improve their existing bid - in little doubt as to how he wants the transaction to be conducted.
The Sports Direct tycoon had hoped to secure a sale by Christmas, giving a new owner time to make a mark in the January transfer window, but having failed to do so, now faces the task of funding a limited recruitment drive.
Manager Rafael Benitez and managing director Lee Charnley have been given the go-ahead to sign up to three players during the final fortnight in an effort to stave off the spectre of relegation, and their focus will be on the loan market.
Few on Tyneside are under any illusion that the club is a more attractive proposition and more valuable asset if it is playing its football in the Premier League, and there is no appetite for a third season in the second tier during the current owner’s reign and the further upheaval which would inevitably result.
In the meantime, fans who had hoped a change of ownership was close have reacted angrily to Tuesday’s news amid fears that a sale and Benitez’s continued presence at St James’ Park are inextricably linked.