MIKE ASHLEY has admitted he could own Newcastle “forever” – in a statement sure to give Toon fans nightmares.
St James Park supporters have long called for the Sports Direct mogul to leave the club, creating the “Ashley Out” campaign.
Former Manchester United and Chelsea chief Peter Kenyon could not come up with the £300million to buy the club – despite working with American Rockerfeller Capital Management to raise the extra cash last year.
SunSport revealed in May Middle Eastern billionaire Sheikh Khaled, part of the Bin Zayed Group, had agreed to buy the club for £350m.
But with slow takeover talks still ongoing, Ashley told the Daily Mail he may never be able to flog Newcastle – despite the mass pressure from fans.
Ashley said: “I have to assume I will stay running this football club. There are no offers.
“Define an offer. I’m not a believer any more. Peter Kenyon convinced me last Christmas that it was going to get done. I’m never doing that again.
“I think I could own this football club for ever. That is my new mental state. The reality is with these deals that once it gets out, if it’s not done, it’s probably not going to get done.
“The day someone buys Newcastle, they’ll do their due diligence – and finished. It will happen like Manchester City.
“By the time the media find out, it’s already complete. There’s no need for a delay with Newcastle. It is, honestly, a very well-run football club.
“The last bid, the one from UAE, he’s a prince and he’s got £38bn or £100bn, all these numbers — well, why would you even care what you’re paying then?
“What difference would £10m either way make? You would want speed, you would want certainty, you would want the keys and to get on with it.”
NOT ENOUGH CASH
In more misery to Toon fans, Ashley admitted he is “not wealthy enough to own Newcastle” – insisting only £1b is enough to compete in the transfer market.
He said: “It is so much bigger than when I got involved. I thought at the time I could put in £10m, £20m and it would make a big difference. And it would have done. Now – it’s nothing.
“Put in £10m and it’s a joke. OK, that’s how the market is. But it’s not something I can afford, and it’s not something Newcastle can afford while I own it.
The over-riding reality is that I am just not wealthy enough to own Newcastle. I genuinely believe you need £1billion.
“People say £500m but I’d bet anyone that these days you can’t do it for that. Not to compete at the very top.
“Manchester City can afford to have an ageing team, they can afford to just write players off. How can we do that? It’s not possible.
“Therefore you have to go for the best young players and hope they develop that little bit and become world-beaters.
“That is our principle and it hasn’t changed for many years. But to compete, I need someone to take Newcastle off me who literally wants to put in £1billion.”
Despite major hostility from club supporters, Ashley revealed he will keep a box at St James Park to watch Newcastle play – as his family will demand it.
“I will not stand in the way of Newcastle United. I will not stop that, if it happens.
“If such a person comes along I will think I’ve done quite a good job and I will want to keep going to watch them.
“I’ll keep a box, because my parents will demand it. Every time there’s a story that I’ve sold, I get the phone call. ‘You haven’t included our box in the sale?’ When you own a football club, the whole family are in.”