Cleland seeks Toon takeover support

October 7, 2008

The South African businessman hoping to lead a takeover at Newcastle has revealed he is looking for new investors.

Jonathan Cleland went public last week amid continuing speculation he was putting together a consortium of anonymous tycoons to mount a serious bid for the Magpies.

However, after a series of prominent South Africans, including Brian Joffe, Johann Rupert and Vivian Imerman, denied any involvement, Cleland has returned to Johannesburg to seek investors, and is also appealing for support from the UK.

He told the Evening Chronicle: ''The vision, the plan and the strategy for the club all remain unchanged.

''The challenge now is coming up with the money after some of our preferred backers indicated they were no longer interested.

''But I think finding the money is the easiest part and I am still confident we will be able to get some great people on board and make the deal happen.''

Mr Cleland's comments came as it emerged that potential buyers have until Friday, October 17 to formalise their interest.

However, he said: ''Nobody has told me about any deadline. What I understand is that (club owner) Mike Ashley is a serious player and will listen to all approaches whenever they come in, provided the club hasn't already been sold, of course.

''I am not an athlete running towards the finishing tape, we have a serious plan and vision and three of the core individuals still remain in the consortium.''

Former chairman Freddy Shepherd, whose decision to sell his shares to Ashley effectively sealed his £134.4million takeover in May last year, has been an interested spectator since the billionaire announced his intention to sell up in September.

He believes the prevailing economic conditions could prove a major problem for Ashley and investment bankers Seymour Pierce, who are handling the sale.

Shepherd said: ''The last I heard from someone in the city, the club has had 100 applications, but 99 of them have been barking mad.

''Getting the right person in at the moment is going to be difficult. There's a credit crunch which will be impacting on potential buyers as much as anyone.

''It doesn't matter who they are. The global markets are in turmoil.

''No-one is going to give Mike Ashley a huge profit for the club now, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to work that one out.

''Whoever is going to buy it will know they are going to have to buy players in January.

''If Ashley doesn't sell the club by January, he's going to have to strengthen the team. That's why he will be aiming to sell the club before the transfer window opens.''

Cleland revealed last week that he had already held talks with Kevin Keegan, whose resignation sparked the current turmoil, over a return, something which is also one of the stated aims of a Nigerian consortium.

Interim boss Joe Kinnear, who spoke to Ashley at the weekend, today said he had been told six consortia have expressed an interest in the club.