Two 'very serious contenders' emerge in chase to buy Newcastle

TWO "very serious" contenders to buy Newcastle have come forward and could be in possession of the club by January.

Keith Harris, chairman of investment bank Seymour Pierce and the man tasked with selling the club, revealed that out of seven groups who had expressed an interest, just two were left in the running.

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is reportedly seeking 250 million for the club and while Harris would not name those involved, he believes a sale will go through before January or early in the new year.

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Both contenders are from overseas, but neither have yet reached the stage of conducting due diligence, the process of looking at the details of the club's accounts. Both have approached Harris through reputable law firms.

Harris said at the FT Sport Industry Summit in London: "We have two very serious contenders to buy it. This the serious interest stage, and if you don't have serious interest you don't have due diligence.

"In a world like this it is no longer people just having a look at the tyres. In January we have that month of buying and selling players so I would imagine if I were a prospective owner I would want to own it either in time to have an influence on what happens in January, or at a time when I can assess what has happened in January."

Harris admitted the financial crisis had made selling the club more difficult, but that Ashley was still committed to the sale – for the right price. He insisted, though, there had been no attempt so far to seek a much lower sale price.

Harris added: "Mike's position is straightforward: if he can sell it to the right buyer at the right price he will sell it.

"The crisis makes everything difficult. Any investment decision you take with a lot of analysis and then a big swallow and a big dose of optimism."