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Businessmen deny South African Newcastle link – report

SoccerNews in English Premier League 3 Oct 2008

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Three South African businessmen linked with a 300-million-pound takeover of crisis-hit Newcastle on Friday denied being interested in the club, it was reported here.

Billionaire Johann Rupert told the BBC that he had “absolutely no interest or knowledge” of any takeover and had never met any of those involved.

Fellow businessmen Vivian Imerman and Brian Joffe also denied being part of the consortium.

Earlier Thursday, Jonathan Cleland, spokesman for the anonymous five-man group, said he was 80-percent confident of sealing a deal.

He claimed he had also spoken to Kevin Keegan about returning as manager.

“I have never met Mr Cleland, never spoken to him on the phone and my secretary does not have a record of him calling,” said Rupert.

“I haven't spoken to any of the other parties either. I have a preference for cricket and rugby. I don't know anything about football and I'm not a football man.”

Imerman issued a statement to make his position clear.

A spokesman said: “Vivian Imerman can re-confirm that he has no involvement whatsoever with any proposed purchase of Newcastle United nor any other football club.”

Keegan's departure from St James' Park at the start of last month triggered a revolt among fans that resulted in current owner Mike Ashley putting the club up for sale.

Negotiations with Cleland's consortium were reportedly at an advanced stage.

“My meeting with Kevin went very well,” Cleland told the Newcastle Evening Chronicle.

“I am hugely impressed with him and I got the sense there is a good chemistry between us and there is a strong mutual interest in working together.

“He is our preferred option, but we can't make any concrete decisions on the management position until negotiations on our planned takeover are further advanced.

“I think he understands and supports our concept of developing the club organically.”

Cleland said he was “80 percent” confident of finalising the purchase of the club.

It emerged last week that Ashley, who was initially hoping to generate over 400 million pounds from the sale, would accept a figure of around 300 million.

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