Irishmen want to cross the football world's big divide

FORMER Sunderland shareholder Charlie Chawke said yesterday that he is trying to put together a consortium to buy Newcastle United.

An exterior picture of St James's Park in Newcastle in Irish colours.

FORMER Sunderland shareholder Charlie Chawke said yesterday that he is trying to put together a consortium to buy Newcastle United.

The Irishman was one of the founding members of the Drumaville consortium that went on to buy Sunderland AFC in 2006.

He said legal and financial representatives of himself and another former Drumaville member were involved in talks with representatives of the Newcastle club.

In an interview on Irish radio, Mr Chawke said the talks were at an early stage, but insisted he has received encouragement from Seymour Pierce, the investment banker brokering the takeover.

United managing director Derek Llambias declined to comment to The Journal on the claims, but it is believed the Irish group are not one of the two consortia who have reportedly lodged £100m bids for the club.

Mr Chawke, a millionaire publican from Dublin who was in the crowd at Newcastle’s first pre-season game at Shamrock Rovers on Saturday, described the £100m asking price for the club as a “fair one”.

But he said that he and fellow former Black Cats shareholder Louis Fitzgerald, who is also a wealthy publican, are seeking to put together a group of investors with the financial backing to assume control from Newcastle United’s beleaguered owner, Mike Ashley.

If successful, Mr Chawke claims, the group would be run along the lines of the Drumaville consortium that ushered in a new era on Wearside. That group consisted of eight shareholders, all with a financial input in the club. Mr Chawke’s interest in Sunderland ended in May when American investment banker Ellis Short assumed majority control at the Stadium of Light, three years after Drumaville paid £10m for the Wearside outfit.

The Dubliner told RTE Radio One presenter Marian Finucane yesterday: “We are in talks with Newcastle at the moment.

“Our legal and financial people are speaking to the legal and financial people over there.

“Negotiations are not too advanced. It’s at an initial stage, but we have got a fairly good response. There’s great interest, it’s just a matter of putting the money together.”

Despite claims that groups have been forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement, Mr Chawke is the second person to declare an interest in buying Newcastle.

He follows Steve McMahon, who said on Friday morning that the Singapore-based Profitable Group are serious candidates to take over. It is unclear whether Profitable are willing to meet £100m valuation, however.

Mr Chawke said yesterday: “We had three great years there (Sunderland), but unfortunately we’re gone now and we’re looking for options. We have to look at options other than Sunderland and Newcastle would fit very nicely into our portfolio.

“Newcastle is a very viable option at the moment. It’s for sale for about £100m, which is about £500m less than it was worth a year and a half or two years ago.”

Mr Chawke’s interest adds a new international flavour to the long drawn out takeover saga.

A group of unidentified Malaysians are among the front runners, while a group based in the United States are also believed to be in the running.

As well as Profitable and the former Sunderland shareholders, there were reports of United approach the men behind Austrian gaming firm, B-win.

In his most recent public statement last week, Newcastle United’s managing director Mr Llambias claimed the takeover situation was “ongoing”.

He said: “There have been more than two bids at £100m. At the moment, we are in the hands of lawyers, and it is all ongoing.

“We are giving interested parties all the help that they need.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer