Amanda Staveley: 'Britain's most glamorous financier' and the woman spearheading the mega-money Saudi arrival into football
As the Saudi takeover of Premier League club Newcastle United edges closer to completion, increasing attention has turned to Amanda Staveley, the glamorous UK financier-turned-Middle East powerbroker who is fronting the bid.
The £300 million ($US370) takeover of Newcastle could be confirmed as early as this week according to reports, as the Premier League green-lights a deal which will see Saudi Arabia's vast Public Investment Fund (PIF) gain an 80 percent stake in the North East club.
The remaining 20 percent share will be divided equally between billionaire British real estate developers the Reuben brothers and UK financier Staveley - who is among the most intriguing figures in the deal.
Through her shrewd brokering and Middle Eastern contacts, the Yorkshire-born Staveley has emerged as among the most powerful women in football - a status set to be cemented with the Newcastle takeover.
Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the PIF and who also sits on the board of Uber, is tipped to be installed as the new Newcastle chairman, while Staveley will be offered a place on the board.Also on rt.com Newcastle is the ideal ‘Goldilocks’ club for Saudi Arabia's footballing ambitions
Staveley has been at the forefront of the bid to buy the club from current owner Mike Ashley since reportedly being tasked by the Saudis with acquiring a Premier League team.
The kingdom effectively ruled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is looking to make a major entry into football as part of its 'Vision 2030' project to diversify the economy away from its oil dependency.
Staveley, 47, has been described by the This Is Money website as the UK's "most glamorous financier," and has earned a reputation as a go-to dealmaker for Middle Eastern elites having carefully cultivated contacts in the region over more than a decade.
Staveley's beginnings are far from humble, having been born into the wealthy Staveley family of UK landowners.
But after dropping out of a modern languages course at Cambridge University, Staveley set about making her way in the business world.
She initially used a £180,000 loan to set up a restaurant, Stocks, near Newmarket racecourse, which enabled her to rub shoulders with wealthy horseowners, including from the Middle East.
She went on to found financial advisory company PCP Capital Partners, which is named in the Newcastle deal, amassing a personal fortune estimated at in excess on £100 million.
Staveley's private life has been just a colorful, having dated Prince Andrew - from whom there was a reported marriage proposal which she spurned - before marrying Iranian businessman Mehrdad Ghodoussi in 2011, with whom she has a son. The family split their time between London and Dubai.
The Saudis' Newcastle takeover is not the first time Staveley has brokered a big-money Middle Eastern entry into the Premier League - she was also instrumental in the sale of Manchester City to Emirati royal Sheikh Mansour back in 2008.
The current bid is not even the first time Staveley has gone in for Newcastle, as she was part of a failed bid for the club in early 2018, after which owner Mike Ashely branded the discussions "a waste of time."
That has not deterred Staveley, however, who is said to have called her past clashes with Ashley "water under the bridge" as she now edges closer to finally clinching a deal for a team she has said she supports as a fan.
The impending deal has not been without contention though, with the UK media predictably highlighting the Saudis' human rights track record while groups such as Amnesty International have also spoken out, as has the wife of late Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally murdered at the country's consulate in Istanbul in 2018.Also on rt.com England's football media are aghast at the Saudis' Newcastle takeover... but expecting fans to rise up is deluded & diversionary
The Saudis' bitter regional rivals Qatar have also made moves to stifle the deal from going through, using Doha-based broadcaster beIN Sports to call on the Premier League to block the takeover due to the Saudis' alleged facilitation of pirate broadcasting in the region.
However, those stumbling blocks do not appear to have prevented the deal from earning approval from the Premier League as the Saudis follow the likes of fellow power players in the region such as the UAE and Qatar in taking on major footballing ambitions.
Despite any misgivings over the Saudis' human rights record, Newcastle fans are likely to welcome them and Staveley with open arms for liberating them from the 13-year reign of current owner Ashley, the UK retail billionaire widely despised on Tyneside for supposedly using the club as a shameless vehicle for his commercial interests and failing to invest funds to return Newcastle to the longed-for days of the 1990s when they were a genuine force in the Premier League and carried European ambitions.
Given her glamorous demeanor and prominent role in the deal, Staveley is likely to be the source of odes from the St James' Park terraces, and will also rise to the ranks of the most powerful women in football.
That is a realm currently occupied by the likes of Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia - a trusted lieutenant of Russian owner Roman Abramovich - and Karren Brady, who is a long-time figure in football circles and currently vice-chairman of West Ham United.
In Staveley though, Newcastle fans will be hoping they have found their own footballing wonder woman, and someone to whom they will be eternally grateful for helping broker a deal which could facilitate major investment in the team, propelling them up the Premier League table and beyond into Europe.