08 Oct 2021

Dentons and Reed Smith join Magic Circle duo for controversial £305m Newcastle United takeover

Allen & Overy and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer make up quartet of firms acting in club’s sale to Saudi-led investment group

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Dentons, Reed Smith and Magic Circle law firms Allen & Overy and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have advised on the long-awaited takeover of Newcastle United Football Club for £305m.

Dentons acted for owner Mike Ashley's St James Holdings on the sale of the club to a joint venture led by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia along with Amanda Staveley's PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers’ RB Sports & Media.

The Dentons effort was led by UK corporate partner Matthew Tinger. He was assisted by Andrew Henderson, UK real estate partner and client partner to Ashley, along with UK corporate senior associate Joseph Collingwood, finance partner Catherine Astruc, real estate senior associate Abbey Wiggett and corporate associate Alex Brady.

An Allen & Overy team led by corporate partner Richard Evans and senior associate Harriet Stephenson advised Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, with specialist advice provided by antitrust partner Alasdair Balfour, tax counsel Tim Harrop and litigation partners Eve Giles and Andrew Denny.

A Freshfields team led by corporate and M&A partner Christopher Mort acted for PCP, though the firm did not respond to a request for further details.

Finally, Reed Smith advised RB Sports & Media on the acquisition and negotiated shareholder arrangements between the consortium members. The effort was led by global corporate group partner Mike Young, who was supported by senior associates Daryl Cue and Matthew Bowen.

The takeover has brought an end to the 14-year ownership of Newcastle United by retail tycoon Ashley, who had a fractious relationship with its fans, and brings it into the ranks of the richest football clubs in the world.

But it has not been without controversy, with campaigners accusing Saudi Arabia of 'sportswashing' its record of human rights abuses.

The takeover appeared to have collapsed last year after it failed to receive approval from the Premier League and has taken place only after a dispute between the Premier League, Newcastle United and St James Holdings over would own and have the ability to control the club following the takeover was settled yesterday.

The Premier League said that it had ‘received legally-binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club'.

But it remains to be seen how this will work in practice, with the Financial Times reporting that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who intends to use the fund to drive the modernisation of the kingdom. One of his closest advisers, Yasir al-Rumayyan, will serve as Newcastle United’s non-executive chair.  

Nick de Marco QC, a leading silk in sports law and Newcastle United fan, tweeted: ‘Although the dispute with the Premier League was hard fought I think the result is best for it too - helping to seal its reputation as the best and most competitive/exciting league in the world. Imagine if we missed the chance of investment and allowed another league to get it.’

Dentons disputes partner Dan Bodle led on the arbitration for Newcastle United, assisted by counsel Matthew Vinall and associates Matthew Turner and Lara Armes-Venter.

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