Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund completed a buyout of Premier League club Newcastle on Thursday, giving hope to fans dreaming of a first title in almost a century.
The $409 million takeover had been pursued since 2017 but stalled and then collapsed last year over concerns about how much control the Saudi state would have in the running of Newcastle amid scrutiny over piracy of sports broadcasts.
It led to a protracted legal fight that only ended this week when the Public Investment Fund (PIF) offered assurances to the Premier League that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and in turn the state, would not have any say in the team.
PIF has bought 80 percent of the club with the wealthy British-based Reuben brothers and financier Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners owning the rest.
While the crown prince will not have a place on Newcastle’s board of directors, he remains chairman of the PIF.
The Premier League’s approval of the new owners and directors means 15 of its clubs are either owned or part-owned by overseas investors.
“All parties have agreed the settlement is necessary to end the long uncertainty for fans over the club’s ownership,” the league said in a statement.
“The Premier League has now received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club.”
The takeover ends the 14-year ownership by British retail tycoon Mike Ashley.
His ownership has been marked by chronic underinvestment in the playing squad, his use of Newcastle as a vehicle to promote his business interests, and of a general lack of ambition despite the club attracting regular home crowds of more than 50,000.
Newcastle has not won a major trophy since the 1955 FA Cup and its last league title was in 1927.