Ashley looking at fresh options

NEWCASTLE owner Mike Ashley was yesterday casting his net ever wider in the search for a buyer as several potential investors denied any interest.

Ashley’s presence in Dubai, along with managing director Derek Llambias, Dennis Wise and Tony Jimenez, has caused a flurry of speculation since he confirmed on Sunday evening that the club is for sale. However, his trip has yet to pay dividends with the Dubai Investment Group following Dubai International Capital (DIC) in insisting they have no intention of taking Newcastle off Ashley’s hands.

The denial came amid reports that Ashley had snubbed a meeting with Arab investors after being told they were prepared to offer only £200million (€254) for the club.

That would have represented less than half the £480m (€610) said to have been quoted in documents handed to representatives of the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, earlier this week. Both the Dubai Investment Group, an arm of Dubai Holding, and Zabeel Investments have been linked with a bid for the club.

However, Zabeel Investments chairman Mohammed Ali Al-Hashimi has insisted he has had no direct contact with Newcastle or their representatives.

Ashley, who bought Newcastle for £134.4m (€170m) 16 months ago and has spent around £110m (€140m) on it since, decided to sell up after concerted protests against him and his regime before and after Saturday’s 2-1 Barclays Premier League defeat by Hull at St James’ Park.

Furious fans called for former manager Kevin Keegan’s reinstatement and the departures of sportswear magnate Ashley and Wise, and they are being offered a chance to become part of the solution.

A representative of the Ashley camp suggested at the weekend that fans should join forces to acquire the club themselves if they wanted to run it, and that is exactly what Newcastle Fans United hopes to do.

The pressure group, which has the backing of the supporters’ campaign website, has recruited top sports lawyer Mel Goldberg to front a bid to raise the cash to buy Ashley out.

That could mean the equivalent of 300,000 people investing £1,000 each with shareholders having an equal vote on how the club, which could also be afforded charitable status as a result, is run, although team affairs would be left to the manager.

They hope the likes of Keegan and club legend Alan Shearer will back their attempt to put the club into the hands of its supporters.

There was at least some welcome news for the Magpies yesterday when the FA confirmed midfielder Danny Guthrie will serve only a three-match ban for the horrific challenge which left Hull’s Craig Fagan with a broken leg.

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