SAUDI ARABIA’S Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is driving a £340million Newcastle takeover bid.
Toon owner Mike Ashley has been in talks with the Gulf nation’s sovereign wealth fund, headed by Bin Salman, for four months.
Saudi Public Investment Fund chiefs, with a consortium brokered by financier Amanda Staveley, are also willing to invest £200m on players.
The consortium — which is believed to include billionaire British brothers David and Simon Reuben — codenamed their plans Project Zebra because of Newcastle’s famous black-and-white striped shirts.
The Reuben real estate magnates are worth £18.7billion and were last year named as the UK’s second-richest family.
Any deal would also include David’s son Jamie getting an executive role at St James’ Park.
Staveley set up two new companies this month, with one called PZ Newco Limited.
Newcastle have not denied talks, highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, which claimed a deal could be “days away.”
And after yesterday’s embarrassing goalless FA Cup fourth round home draw with League One Oxford, Toon boss Bruce said: “I’ve got enough worries of my own on the football side to let reports circulate.”
Bin Salman – whose family is worth at least £1.3tn – tried to buy Manchester United but he and his advisors are now targeting Newcastle after the Red Devils’ American owners, the Glazer family, refused to sell.
Dubai-based financier Staveley has so far been unsuccessful for 2½ years in attempting to buy Newcastle from Ashley, who bought the club for £134m in 2007.
Their relationship has become frosty over previous failed attempts, with Ashley accusing Staveley of wasting his time.
But if this latest try gets over the line Staveley’s company — PCP Capital — is understood to be set to assume a 10 per cent stake in the club.
Any takeover could be as significant as the Abu Dhabi United Group buyout of Manchester City in 2008.
Ashley is not happy it is being played out in public, while Staveley’s camp believe a deal is very close.
Bin Salman launched Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 — an ambitious plan to diversify their traditionally oil-dependent economy and branch into entertainment and tourism.