Mike Ashley exclusive: It's not all about money, I received a higher offer but Saudi takeover was best for Newcastle
IT began with promises and hope but ended with a mutiny from the fans.
Not even Mike Ashley himself tried to claim his spell at St James’ Park will be remembered fondly.
After 14 years of trouble and strife, it is no real surprise that Ashley sounded pleased to have finally turned his back on the Quayside and the Scotswood Road.
But even in his farewell address to a Toon Army who made their discontent known long ago, Ashley was determined to stick to his own guns.
Yes, it has not worked out as he hoped. Perhaps the bottomless riches hewn from the Saudi Arabian oil fields can transform everything.
Yet Ashley still maintained he DID put the club first, even ahead of his own financial interests — and even at the 11th and final hour of his drawn-out reign.
Ashley said: “I would like it to be known that I received a higher offer for the club than the one that I accepted.
“It was from another reputable bidder, who made a credible case.
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“But I felt the bid that we accepted from the current new owners would deliver the best for Newcastle United.
“Money wasn’t my only consideration. There were times when I stepped in financially to keep Newcastle United afloat.
“We ensured the wage bills were paid when we went down in order that we could bounce straight back up.
“Nobody was happier than me when we achieved immediate promotion.”
In truth, few Toon fans would agree. After all, Ashley is a hard-headed businessman, not a romantic with football in his soul.
But there was a degree of honesty as he explained: “Although I am a wealthy individual, I’m not in the same financial league as a consortium that has sovereign wealth fund backing.
“It’s hard to compete at the highest level in football with certain clubs that have almost unlimited resources.
“I’ve known for some time now that many Newcastle fans were frustrated by the situation and were in favour of a change.
“I therefore felt that I owed it to the fans to fight tooth and nail over the last 18 months or so to make this happen.”
I felt I owed it to the fans to fight tooth and nail to make this happen
That was a nod to the legal battle with the Premier League that was finally resolved when the brutal business skirmish between the Saudi and Qatari governments — the latter owning the League’s Middle East broadcast partner beIN Sports — ended in a win for Doha over Riyadh.
Ashley said: “I’m pleased that we were eventually able to get the appropriate approval from the Premier League to go ahead with the sale.
“I would like to thank the supporters, staff and players for their patience during this period. It’s been a long time coming but it will now open up a positive new chapter for the club.
“Despite what some people may think, I have always had nothing but the greatest respect for the Newcastle United fans.
“My greatest regret was that we so narrowly missed out on a Champions League place in 2011-12 when we finished fifth.
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“We were a whisker away. I hoped that we could go on to build from there but it was not to be.
“Owning a football club gets into your blood and I would love nothing more than to see Newcastle winning trophies.
“Although there have been disappointments over the years, I wish Newcastle United and all its loyal fans all the very best for the future.”
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