Seven target Magpies

Seven potential buyers could be ready for a battle to get their hands on Newcastle.

Investment bankers Seymour Pierce, who have been appointed by owner Mike Ashley to sell the club, have issued a prospectus of sale to the seven interested parties.

The document details the club’s current financial position 16 months after Ashley completed his own £134.4m (€171m) takeover.

Each of the prospective new owners has signed a confidentiality agreement that prevents the release of information contained in the prospectus.

The move is a significant development in the sale process, which was initiated by the billionaire following mass protests in the wake of manager Kevin Keegan’s resignation last month.

Speculation has been rife ever since Ashley signalled his intention to offload the club he bought in May last year over the identities of those who might want to take it off his hands.

A Nigerian consortium, fronted by London-based spokesman Chris Nathaniel, have made no secret of their interest.

Indeed, they are understood to be ready to table – some reports have suggested they have already done so – a bid for around £200m (€254m).

However, it has emerged in the last few days a South African consortium could be ready to make an offer somewhere nearer the £300m (€381m) Ashley is understood to be asking.

The rumours have sparked a frenzy in South Africa with a series of names being suggested as members of the so-far anonymous group.

Billionaire Johann Rupert, the man behind Swiss-owned luxury goods company Richemont, and multi-millionaire Vivian Imerman, a former owner of Del Monte who has since bought into Scottish Whisky producer Whyte and Mackay, have both been named in dispatches.

However, representatives have since denied any interest, while there was no comment from the camp of Brian Joffe, founder of investment holding firm Bidvest.

Joffe has a reputation for taking over failing companies and reviving them, an attribute sources suggest is shared by the South African consortium interested in Newcastle.

Both the Nigerians and their South African counterparts have hinted they would restore Keegan to the manager’s job, with Newcastle’s evening newspaper, the Evening Chronicle, suggesting the latter would offer him a multi-million stake in the business.

Uncertainty off the pitch has undoubtedly had an effect on it with the Magpies having lost their last five games, four of them since Keegan’s departure.

Ashley last week appointed 61-year-old Joe Kinnear as interim boss and will hope for a change of fortunes at Everton on Sunday.

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