Newcastle owner Mike Ashley admits he is desperate for new investors to pump cash into his Premier League club, but even he draws the line at suggestions of a deal with the family of terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Ashley wants to bring in a partner who can help share the burden of supplying the substantial funds needed to turn Newcastle into Premier League title contenders.
But the billionaire businessman was shocked to hear reports that the Saudi Binladin Group had been approached to invest in Newcastle.
Although the group, run by Osama's half-brother Bakr bin Laden, distanced themselves from the Al-Qaeda founder some years ago, Ashley was sufficiently outraged to issue a firm denial.
“I would say that I am keen to have partners in Newcastle. That's a very expensive seat I sit in,” he told the Evening Standard.
“But I think I'll start with people from Newcastle, not in some cave in Afghanistan.”
Ashley spoke out as his Sports Direct empire, which was floated in March last year, reported that profits for the year to April had halved after a drop in sales, fuelling talk he may cash in on Newcastle.
But he is confident of getting the ship back on course in the coming months. “I think last year, we were on the Titanic and still dancing with the band. This year will be different,” he said.
Ashley knows manager Kevin Keegan's close-season spending will determine hw Newcastle do next season on the pitch.
The Magpies have so far made just one new signing, Argentina winger Jonas Guttierrez, and Keegan will certainly be looking for several more additions to a squad which has been trimmed significantly since the end of the season.
In addition, midfielder Joey Barton is expected to spend up to another month in prison after being denied early release with an electronic tag.
The 25-year-old had hoped to be allowed to join in pre-season training, but could now not be available until the final few days of preparations, meaning he is unlikely to be ready for the start of the new season on August 16.
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