The proposed £300m takeover of Premier League football team Newcastle United by a Saudi Arabian-backed investment fund has been called off.
The takeover would have put an end to the controversial ownership of Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley.
The group, which included wealth fund PIF, PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers, made the bid to buy the club in April.
However, the takeover process has repeatedly been held up over concerns over the takeover group’s links to the Saudi state – which has been subjected to accusations of broadcasting piracy and human rights abuses.
Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, had called on the Premier League to block the takeover. Khashoggi murder at the Saudi Consulate in Turkey two years ago has been linked to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who oversees the fund heading the takeover.
As a part of the deal, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund would have had an 80% stake in Newcastle United.
The Reuben brothers and financier Amanda Staveley were planning to each buy the remaining 10% stakes.
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, particularly with no clarity as to the circumstances under which the next season will start and the new norms that will arise for matches, training and other activities.
“As often occurs with proposed investments in uncertain periods, time itself became an enemy of the transaction, particularly during this difficult phase marked by the many real challenges facing us all from COVID-19.”