Saudi-led investor group said in talks to buy Newcastle United

British billionaire Mike Ashley has been struggling to offload the team in recent years. (Bloomberg pic)

LONDON:A Saudi Arabia-led investor group is in talks to buy Newcastle United, the Premier League soccer team owned by British billionaire Mike Ashley, for about £340 million (US$445 million), a person familiar with the offer said.

Ashley has been struggling to offload the team in recent years and it was unclear whether he would accept the offer, the person said. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s key investment vehicle, along with a group of investors led by British financier Amanda Staveley were making the offer, Dow Jones reported earlier.

A spokesman for Staveley declined to comment on a possible offer.

Calls to Ashley’s spokespeople weren’t immediately returned. Representatives of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund also didn’t immediately respond.

Ashley is a serial buyer of ailing UK high street names from House of Fraser to Evans Cycles. He bought Newcastle in 2007 for 134 million pounds and put it up for sale as early as 2008. Fans quickly soured on Ashley following the departure of manager Kevin Keegan.

Newcastle, now coached by Steve Bruce, is currently 14th in the elite 20-team Premier League, sitting 7 points above the relegation zone. Newcastle in the far northeastern part of England is one of the country’s biggest cities.