It’s five years since Mike Ashley bought Newcastle United.
Chris Mort – thinks – where did all the money go?
And we suppose Mike can say his five year plan worked fairly well – because he said he wanted Newcastle fighting for a Champions League position by the time the five years were up.
And we did just that last season, and finished 5th top – but at least we are now in Europe for the first time in Mike Ashley’s tenure of the Tyneside club.
And the first Chairman of the club under Ashley – Chris Mort – who we always thought was such a good guy, has spoken out in positive terms about the club on the five year anniversary.
Chris was the one who came in and did a review of the financials in the first few months after Ashley and his men had taken over the club.
Mike Ashley had not done the usual due diligence, which is customary when a takeover is being executed – where you look at the financial books and understand the financial health of the company you are buying.
Chris found a few disturbing financial facts, should we say, one of what was the club owed £36M on transfer fees, and that was on some players who had already left the club.
They also found out that the funds they got from Northern Rock were spoken for for the next several years – to help pay the £17M transfer fee Newcastle paid for Michael Owen.
It all ended up with Chris being more than a little surprised at the way the club had been run financially by the previous Chairman Freddy Shepherd, who had run the club for the previous ten years.
It all ended up with Mike Ashley loaning the club around £100M to pay off outstanding debts, but it was at zero interest rate from Mike.
The 46-year-old Mort is now the head of international law firm Freshfields’ leisure sector group and he has this to say on the five year anniversary:
“I’m delighted to see the way the season has gone and the progress that has been made. For Newcastle United to get into Europe is great news.”
“I was the chairman of Newcastle for 12 months and I loved my time there. The thing to say is that the thing that stood out for me were the games at St James Park.”
“It’s the most amazing stadium and to spend time with the supporters who follow their local club gives you a great appreciation for people’s enthusiasm.”
“It’s clearly a wonderful place. It’s not just a passionate club but a passionate city. It’s a big club in a big city.”
“I’m delighted that the club is doing so well and that they’ve finished the season so well is great news.”
We always hoped that Chris would stay on as the Chairman, because he was so good with the fans, and often brought them up to date with everything he was doing at Newcastle.
Chris Mort welcomes Derek Llambias in May of 2008
12 months later we were relegated
Chris left in May of 2008, after almost a year helping Mike Ashley take over and run the club, and then Derek Llambias came in.
While Chris didn’t have much experience in football, neither did Derek, but the next 12 months turned out to be a turbulent time at the club, and ended up with Newcastle being relegated in May of 2009.
There were lots of mistakes made in that twelve months by both Mike Ashley and derek LLambias, and both have since admitted that – but things have been looking up for the last three years, to be truthful.
It’s great to hear from Chris Mort again, and if there’s one thing Derek LLambias can learn from Chris Mort, it’s how to communicate with the Newcastle fans.
Chris was great at that, but we worked out very quickly that Chris was an extremely talented guy, and it’s hardly surprising he’s doing so well at the Freshfields law firm.
And as usual Chris’ statement is very positive about Newcastle United, and he was truly amazed at how the Geordie fans support and love their football club.