The owner of English Premier League team Newcastle United, Mike Ashley, is reportedly in talks with an American financial investment firm over a potential sale of the club.
A successful deal would bring his tumultuous 11 years in charge at the club to an end. Ashley is also the majority shareholder in U.K.-based sporting goods chain Sports Direct and gave an interview to Sky News earlier this week saying discussions over a sale "are at a more progressed stage than they have ever been."
It's now believed the bid he was referring to is from the financial advisory company Rockefeller Capital Management. Rockefeller is thought to be working with former Manchester United and Chelsea Chief Executive Peter Kenyon as part of a consortium, but it's not known if a formal bid has been lodged yet.
Ashley could be considering as many as three other offers from interested parties — all thought to be around his £300 million ($382 million) valuation.
"I am hopeful — for the Newcastle fans, for the club, for everybody, that I will be able to step aside and we will be able to get an owner in that will please everybody," Ashley said Monday, adding that he was not in exclusive talks with any party.
Ashley bought a controlling stake in the club in 2007 for around £134 million. He has a reported net worth of $3.8 billion and has often been criticized for a lack of investment in the playing squad at Newcastle. He added that any potential buyer must be able to provide transfer funds.
"I'm very keen to sell it to the right buyer so that everybody's happy," he added. "That would be good news."
The club based in the north east of England has officially been up for sale for a year, but according to Ashley recent bids were all deemed to be unsuitable.
In order to complete any takeover, all bids are subject to the Premier League's fit and proper person's test, which could take as long as two weeks to complete. This would make Ashley's estimation of a finalized deal by January 1 seem ambitious at this stage.
Newcastle has twice been relegated from the Premier League under Ashley's ownership, regaining promotion again to the top division in May 2017. It was not until November 3 that Newcastle won its first Premier League game this season, after only spending £30 million on transfers in the summer and making a net profit of £7 million after player sales.
Former England soccer striker Michael Owen remains Newcastle's record transfer signing when he signed for £16 million in August 2006. No other current Premier League team has endured such a long period without breaking its transfer record.
Of the 20 Premier League teams, currently five have some form of American ownership, including the Glazer family at Manchester United, John W. Henry at Liverpool and Shahid Khan at Fulham.