LONDON: A Saudi Arabian-backed consortium has ended its bid to buy Newcastle United.
The group, which included Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund PIF, PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers, had agreed a £300m deal to buy the club from Mike Ashley in April.
The deal was still being scrutinised under the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test and it is understood PIF ran out of patience.
PIF said that it was with “deep sadness” that it had pulled out.
“With a deep appreciation for the Newcastle community and the significance of its football club, we have come to the decision to withdraw our interest in acquiring Newcastle United Football Club,” the group said in a statement.
“Ultimately, during the unforeseeably prolonged process, the commercial agreement between the Investment Group and the club’s owners expired and our investment thesis could not be sustained.”
As revealed by the BBC this week, the Premier League was seeking clarification of the links between PIF and the Saudi state.
PIF’s chairman is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and it appears the Premier League’s lawyers had been struggling to establish the precise links between the consortium and the Saudi government.
PIF felt it had been given as many assurances as it could about an appropriate amount of distance between PIF and the Saudi state.
The economic environment and prospect of a second wave of the coronavirus – and threat of limited fans in stadia – was also said to be unhelpful.
Human rights groups and the fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Hatice Cengiz, had opposed the takeover.
In June, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said he would “fully consider” calls for the proposed bid to be blocked.
One of the issues raised by critics of the takeover was Saudi Arabia’s response to cases of unauthorised broadcasting of Premier League games in the country.
Last month, the World Trade Organization issued a report which found representatives of the Saudi state had facilitated the breach of international piracy laws via the TV network beoutQ.
Saudi Arabia has always denied aiding the beoutQ operation and has insisted there is no link between its government and the alleged piracy.