Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed has not provided proof of funds for his proposed takeover of Newcastle United, reports claim.
The billionaire is a senior member of the Abu Dhabi royal family and is said to be a distant relative of Manchester City’s Arab owner Sheikh Mansour.
On Monday, Midhat Kidwai, the managing director of Khaled’s Bin Zayed Group, released a statement claiming they had ‘agreed terms’ with Magpies owner Mike Ashley to end his turbulent 12-year spell on Tyneside.
However, The Daily Mail claim the group has not reached the stage where paperwork is submitted to the Premier League and is yet to provide proof of funds.
They have finished 10th and 13th in their two seasons back in the top-flight under Rafa Benitez despite the Spaniard complaining about a lack of backing from the board.
Benitez’s contract runs out on June 30, and it is believed he wants clarifications from owner Ashley over the club’s ambition before signing fresh terms.
But a takeover from Khaled could see him extend his stay at St James’ Park.
Khaled appears confident of completing the £350million takeover, but Newcastle are privately insisting that a deal is far from close.
A statement released by the Bin Zayed Group, of which Khaled is chairman, said: “We can confirm that representatives of His Highness Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan are in discussions with Mike Ashley and his team, about the proposed acquisition of Newcastle United Football Club.
“We view it as an honour to have the opportunity to build on the strong support, history and tradition of the club.
“We have agreed terms and are working hard to complete the transaction at the earliest opportunity.”
Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has reportedly agreed to sell the club for £350million to the cousin of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour.
The Sun claim Dubai-based billionaire Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan is set to take over at St James’ Park.
Sheikh Khaled, 61, is a senior member of the Abu Dhabi royal family and last year failed with an attempted £2billion takeover of Liverpool.
He is said to be a lover of football with a keen interest in the Premier League, and looks set to join the list of mega-rich owners in the English top flight.
The reports claim contracts over the £350m sale have been signed by Ashley and the Sheikh and have been submitted to the Premier League.
Newcastle have not made an official comment, but The Chronicle report senior club sources have confirmed Sheikh Khaled’s interest and say talks have taken place.
However, they add there is ‘some way’ to go for the takeover to go through.
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Of course, Newcastle have been here before with Ashley. Newcastle have been close to takeover attempts in the past from Amanda Staveley and Peter Kenyon, but ultimately they proved unsuccessful.
But it appears the Sports Direct boss – widely hated by the Toon Army, who have continuously campaign for him to leave their beloved club – has now decided to end his 12 year reign in charge at St James’ Park.
It is claimed the Sheikh will look to tie down manager Rafa Benitez’s future and provide the Spaniard funds to strengthen his squad when his takeover is complete.
Loyal supporters will be hoping the billionaire’s arrival will help to usher in a new era of success at St James’ Park, having not won a major trophy since 1969.
Who is Sheikh Khaled?
He is founder of the Bin Zayed Group – a leading group of businesses with diverse interests in the local and international markets.
The Bin Zayed Group’s key activities comprise four business fields: construction and energy, trading and industry, real estate, technology and financial services.
The 61-year-old is president of the UAE Sailing and Rowing Federation, and has always had a keen interest in football and loves the Premier League.
He is the cousin of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour.
The club are being investigated by the Premier League and UEFA for possible breaches.
In an interview with Belgian magazine Sport and Strategy, UEFA’s chief FFP investigator Yves Leterme said: “If what has been written about Manchester City is true, there might be a serious problem.
“This can lead to the heaviest punishment – exclusion from UEFA competitions.”
Leterme, a former Belgian prime minister, explained that clubs must truthfully report their financial affairs to UEFA when they apply for a licence to compete in European club competitions.
The governing body’s Club Financial Control Board then randomly checks those figures and club accounts are examined by internal and external experts.
“If the (Der Spiegel) information is correct, this goes against the truthful reporting of financial affairs,” added Leterme.
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According to the German magazine, only £8million of City’s claimed £67.5million sponsorship deal with Etihad actually came from the airline in 2015, with the rest coming direct from their owner Sheikh Mansour via his Abu Dhabi United Group.
A member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family, Sheikh Mansour is deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa is the UAE’s president and emir of Abu Dhabi.
The magazine also alleged that City backdated and inflated several other deals from their predominantly UAE-based sponsors to meet FFP requirements, hid payments to former manager Roberto Mancini and artificially reduced their image-rights costs.
The Premier League is understood to be investigating the matter, too, and is cooperating with UEFA’s investigators, who are also looking into similar allegations related to French clubs Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain.
CIty and PSG were both given £49million fines by UEFA for breaching FFP rules in 2014, as well as having restrictions imposed on the size of their Champions League squads and transfer spends for two seasons – but two thirds of the sums were later returned to the clubs for apparently complying with the terms of the conditional punishment.
A second offence, however, would be viewed much more seriously, making a sporting sanction, a ban, more likely.
Manchester City are facing calls from Europe’s top clubs for a Champions League ban after the Football Leaks revelations.
The whistle-blowing platform claims City hid millions in funding from owner Sheikh Mansour’s private fortune in order to dodge Financial Fair Play rules.
And now, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich want to see the club punished for their alleged actions.
According to The Sun, Europe’s giants are hoping to receive backing from Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to get City kicked out of the Champions League.
Over the last week, Der Spiegel has published a series of allegations based on information obtained from Football Leaks that have painted a very different picture of the club than the one displayed on the pitch.
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According to the German magazine, City have spent much of the last decade trying to get around European football’s Financial Fair Play rules with inflated sponsorship deals, an elaborate image rights scam and hidden contracts.
One of those sponsorship deals was struck with Arabtec, the largest construction company in the United Arab Emirates but a firm that has been repeatedly criticised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for its poor treatment of migrant workers.
Der Spiegel claims City bosses ignored warnings from its own public relations experts about reputational damage and increased scrutiny to sign a three-year, regional sponsorship agreement – worth £7million a year – with Arabtec in 2014.
Manchester City have again defended themselves from accusations they have tried to cheat Financial Fair Play rules, by hiding millions of pounds of owner Sheikh Mansour’s private fortune from their books.
Last week, German magazine Der Spiegel published a story which claimed the Premier League champions struck a secret deal with European football’s governing body UEFA in 2014 to avoid a potential Champions League ban for breaching FFP regulations.
City said at the time the original magazine article was published that they would not be commenting and that the attempt to damage their reputation was “organised and clear”.
On Monday, Der Spiegel published a new article on what it alleges are City’s attempts to deceive UEFA by channelling millions of pounds of their owner Sheikh Mansour’s immense wealth into the club via their Abu Dhabi-based sponsors.
City repeated the statement they issued last week, defending their position and referring to “out of context materials purportedly hacked or stolen from City Football Group and Manchester City personnel and associated people”.
The club are likely to face more questions throughout the week.
Citing emails between City bosses that it claims to have obtained, Der Spiegel alleges that Sheikh Mansour, a senior member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family, has been topping up City’s already lucrative sponsorship deals with Emirati companies with his own money – which if true would be a clear breach of FFP’s rules against “related parties” pumping cash into clubs.
According to the emails, Sheikh Mansour had “supplemented” City’s “Abu Dhabi partnership deals” by £149.5million by the time the club won the first of three Premier League titles under his ownership in 2012.
A year later, Der Spiegel claims, the club had to fill a £9.9million hole in their budget to meet FFP’s ‘break even’ requirement because of severance payments to sacked manager Roberto Mancini.
The club’s solution, according to the German magazine, was to get three of its main backers – investment firm Aabar, the Abu Dhabi tourism authority and airline Etihad – to make up-front payments totalling £7.5million for increases in their sponsorship deals.
And in a series of emails quoted from by Der Spiegel, dated between 2010 and 2015, club directors appear to state that Sheikh Mansour is the real source of a large chunk of the money that is purportedly flowing to East Manchester from Aabar, the tourism authority, Etihad and telecoms firm Etisalat.
Der Spiegel’s report referred to an internal email which it says was sent by director Simon Pearce, who is quoted as saying that Aabar’s contribution is £3million, with £12million coming from “alternative sources provided by His Highness”.
In December 2013, Pearce is reported by the German magazine to have written in an internal email that Etihad’s contribution “remains constant at 8m” despite it being officially listed at £35million.
Der Spiegel reports that by 2015, the “supplement” had grown to a staggering £59.5million, according to an email it claims to have seen from City’s chief financial officer Jorge Chumillas.
A spokesperson for Etihad denied the airline was not the real source of the money it paid to City.
“The airline’s financial obligations, associated with the partnership of the club and the broader City Football Group, have always been, and remain, the sole liability and responsibility of Etihad Airways,” the statement said.
“This is reflected in the airline’s audited accounts. Our partnership with Manchester City and the broader City Football Group continues to deliver important ongoing and accumulative returns on our investments.”
The second part of Der Spiegel’s series was released on Tuesday and alleged that City set up a project group to circumvent FFP rules. City responded to Der Spiegel with the statement issued last week.
UEFA said it “cannot comment on specific cases due to confidentiality obligations” but the governing body is certain to come under pressure in the coming weeks to reopen its FFP investigation into City’s finances.
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