Who are Newcastle United’s new majority shareholders?
By Jordan Brightman-Charles
In the weeks following the news that Newcastle United had been sold by British retail tycoon Mike Ashley, many still find themselves wondering who the new majority owners of the Tyneside club actually are.
By Jordan Brightman-Charles
Introducing the PIF
The Public Investment Fund is an organisation based in Saudi Arabia, which was founded as a means to manage and invest the wealth of the Saudi nation. Officially speaking, the organisation declares itself to be a “sovereign wealth fund”, meaning that it is state-owned. It is estimated that this Saudi fund’s business assets are worth approximately 500 billion US Dollars.
Despite there being an overlap in their key figures, those in charge of the Public Investment Fund have stated that the fund is a separate legal entity to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. However, this has not been without controversy. Due to Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman being chairman of the organisation, the difference between the two entities has come into question.
Mohammed bin Salman is considered to be a highly controversial figure in the current climate of global politics. The crown prince has been accused of multiple human rights violations, as well as having potentially organising the 2018 assassination of Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi. MBS, as he is colloquially known, will not be maintaining a role in the day-to-day operations of the north-east club. Instead, this honour will fall to Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Governor of the PIF. At the behest of the PIF, Al-Rumayyan will represent the organisation as the new chairman of Newcastle United FC. In spite of bin Salman’s absence in the club hierarchy, Newcastle are still viewed as being ran by the Saudi government itself, even if this view contradicts the PIF’s declaration of being a separate organisation.
The lack of distinction between the two entities was one of the main factors in why the Premier League initially blocked the PIF from purchasing their 80% stake in the club when talks were first held in 2020.
The new ownership’s links to the Saudi regime have led to the PIF’s takeover being dubbed as an act of ‘sportswashing’. Sportswashing is essentially a public relations exercise where an organisation utilises sport to improve their reputation, this could be through hosting a sporting event, or purchasing a sports team to endear yourselves to a selected group of people. Minority shareholder Amanda Staveley has argued against this notion. The head of PCP Capital Partners has asserted that the goal of the ownership consortium is not to distract from Saudi Arabia’s chequered history of human rights issues, but for the new ownership to rebuild the Tyne & Wear side into becoming a winning club once again.