Keith Harris has been interviewed about Mike Ashley attempts to sell the club in late 2008, and then again in the summer of 2009, after Newcastle were relegated.
Keith Harris – the man charged with selling Newcastle United
And one of the interesting things to us was one reason Newcastle didn’t get people flocking in to buy the Tyneside club, is that it’s brand name world-wide is not particularly good.
It’s hard to be unbiased and objective about the club, when you have been born and bred in Newcastle, so it’s good to have an independent assessment of the club, by someone who has been involved in selling clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City.
The other major reason buyers didn’t come flocking in to buy the club, is there seems no real way to increase the revenues of the club, since they seem to have been maximized by the current owner already.
But first of all it’s an interesting interview with Keith Harris, who is Chairman of investment banking firm Seymour Pierce, who was charged with selling Newcastle United for Mike Ashley, and the owner seems to have remain calm during the whole process.
“We were retained by Mike Ashley to sell the business. We got expressions of interest from a lot of people as is typical in football.” “Most of them were just kicking the tires. There were one or two that came further than that but didn’t have all the money to invest but had some of it.”
“It meant they required additional funding but Mike lost patience with the whole process.” “I wouldn’t say he was desperate to get rid of the club.” “But he was disillusioned with what he saw going on at Newcastle United and he was obviously not massively popular in front of the fans.”
“There’s not much honour in football. When a team gets relegated it tends to be the owner who gets criticised, but when things go well it’s the manager who gets the plaudits and I don’t think Mike was used to that.” “There were probably about 20 people who came back positively to express an interest and that was filtered down very, very quickly.”
“Football is a great opportunity for people to enhance their personal profile but Mike stayed cool through the whole process.” “As we narrowed it down there was one very interested party. He was very interested and a deal was on the cards. Because it was sensitive the press got hold of it and it nearly killed it. He had some additional money to raise and the terms he suggested were not far off. It was a credible and possible buy-out.”
“Part of the due diligence is that it has wonderful fan support, but it doesn’t have much of an international brand presence.” “The problem is that if you own the club, how do you improve it? Off the pitch they have already done a good job of optimizing what they earn and you can’t get more people in the stadium.”
“There were guys that he wanted to sell it to. He wanted the information and he made the decisions to go ahead or change the plans. I think the figure was a sensible expectation for the club. These types of businesses are still regarded as trophy assets.”
“Academically, it should be worth more, but whether or not there’s a population willing to take it on is something else.” “It was difficult to sell for a host of reasons. At that time, we didn’t know what was going to happen. But the real negative was how you could get more out of the club.”
“Mike Ashley was very straightforward to deal with. He wanted to know the news and he relied on Derek Llambias as an intermediary.”
The 61-year-old investment banker has worked to sell Chelsea to Roman Abramovich, and he worked for the former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for six months, until he eventually bought Manchester City, but then he sold to the current owners.
It’s hard to see why the revenues of Newcastle cannot be increased, and also the world-wide brand name cannot be improved.
Here are some potential ways to achieve those two things, and they seem to go hand in hand:
Ways to increase world-wide brand names and increase revenues:
- Get and keep in European competition - we made a good start at that with Alan Pardew but we really need to be in the Champions League – but if Newcastle are in the top six in the Premier League our games will continue to be shown world-wide
- Expand St. James’ Park to 60,000 capacity – there have been plans in place to do this – but we must ensure the extra seats would be filled – so we need to have a very good side before the club can be expected to do that
- Sell the naming rights to St. James Park – but we’ll keep calling it by what it is – St. James’ Park
- Keep reading The Newcastle United Blog around the world for more global brand recognition
I couldn’t resist putting that last bullet in there, but surely if Newcastle become a regular top six club or even top four club in the Premier League – both the brand recognition and the revenues should increase substantially.
We should get more revenue from European competition, and from full houses all of the time at St. James’ Park, and then we can charge more for the shirt deals we have.
To us, it all seems so dependent on having a very good side.
What do you think?