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Amanda Staveley’s dealings with Liverpool show that the football world hasn’t always bent to its way

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The framed photographs on the piano at Amanda Staveley’s home in Central London’s Park Lane are a signal to anyone who comes to do business there that she has very impressive connections.

Sir Alex Ferguson, Theresa May and many shades of royalty were on display. And then there’s the picture of Staveley in the director’s box at Anfield, spotted there by a football manager a few years ago. It shows how she could very well end up elsewhere than at St James’ Park, Newcastle, where she will appear on Sunday to a roaring round of applause.

Staveley’s strenuous efforts to match buyers with Liverpool reveal a lot about what she looks like to make her networks count. It was 2008 and Liverpool’s loathed American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett were in a state of civil war with fans when she met Hicks’ son Tommy during a pheasant shooting in her native Yorkshire, where he told her his father wanted him. to sell. .

New Newcastle director Amanda Staveley previously had links in regards to buying Liverpool

She met Tom Hicks' son (left, who owned the club with George Gillett), Tommy, about a sale

She met Tom Hicks’ son (left, who owned the club with George Gillett), Tommy, about a sale

Staveley’s quick approach to Anfield came through another contact, David Mellor, the former Conservative Foreign Secretary, who telephoned Liverpool to ask if they would meet her to discuss a takeover in Dubai.

There was a skeptical appointment to do this. Dubai had expressed an interest in buying Liverpool a few years earlier, but turned out to be so tough that Hicks and Gillett moved in instead.

Staveley’s connections in the Middle East had seen Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan recently bought Manchester City. Why, Liverpool asked her, hadn’t she brought the Abu Dhabis to them? “They wanted a smaller club,” she said, according to a source familiar with the talks.

There was then frustration at the top of Liverpool with how Staveley worked – the lack of documentation and vague promises. “We never saw anything that suggested she was formally appointed by Dubai,” the source said.

“These encounters were also at the Park Lane house. I would have been more comfortable meeting at the office and seeing the documentation. It was always, “Don’t worry, they’re going to pay the 550 (million).” We’ve wasted hours and hours.’

A second director of another club agrees. “There were never details,” he said. “It felt like hot air.”

Staveley would say that making the connections is fundamental and that formalities arise from it

Staveley would say that making the connections is fundamental and that formalities arise from it

Staveley would say that making connections is fundamental and that formalities arise from it. “She has no prejudices either,” said a colleague who has worked with her for more than a decade.

“She contacted me just before the deal with Manchester City in Abu Dhabi to go over the valuation. I told her I thought it was worth 150 (million). She said, ‘I just wanted your opinion. We are going to pay 260 (million)”. She’s rowdy. She understands details.’

Staveley had connections to Dubai. She was close to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who appeared with him in the boardroom at Anfield for the 2008 Liverpool Champions League semi-final against Chelsea. piano was spotted.

She also saw where the power bases were. She met Liverpool fan group Spirit of Shankly (SoS) at the Circo restaurant in Liverpool’s Albert Dock, clearly aware that their active support for Dubai would be a huge leverage to get the Americans out. She told them that Dubai would set up an advisory board, which would include SoS. But the meeting was no walk in the park.

“I don’t think it went quite as she imagined,” said a source. “Our representative, Paul Rice, said we wouldn’t sit on a board without power. The meeting was nice and polite. Staveley was a good sight. She told us we were “the best fans in the world”. But it wasn’t quite the Yanks Out, Dubai In she’d wanted.’

Her ability to circulate among big spenders dates back to when she dropped out of Cambridge University and borrowed money to buy a restaurant popular with Gulf racehorse owners. Her next venture was a conference center for Cambridge Science Park, where she met Prince Andrew, who visited as UK trade ambassador with King Abdullah of Jordan in 2001. She and Andrew entered into a two-year romantic relationship.

She met Prince Andrew (above), with whom she entered into a romantic relationship in 2001

She met Prince Andrew (above), with whom she entered into a romantic relationship in 2001

When the company that bought the conference center collapsed, Staveley was forced into insolvency, though she used contacts from the previous companies to set up PCP Capital Partners, its advisory and equity firm, with offices in Dubai and London. Some who have worked with Staveley say her tendency to make connections can make it difficult to keep the lid on the case.

A Liverpool manager left a meeting she had arranged between Gillett and the contingent in Dubai, in offices opposite New Scotland Yard, only to walk straight into a prominent sports journalist. The story of the encounter has been leaked.

“Hicks and Gillett were at each other’s throats at the time,” said a source. “When the news broke that one was talking to Dubai, the other went off the deep end.”

The deal never materialized.

Another set of talks that leaked were in 2016 between Chinese state conglomerate Everbright and Liverpool.

Staveley believed she could deliver on her own if she could meet John W Henry, Liverpool’s main owner, say sources familiar with the bid. But there was no personal meeting.

In response to Staveley’s request, Henry said that if Everbright could show they had the money they were claiming, he would be “lucky” to meet their chairman.

“Let him say it’s believable,” Henry insisted. When news of the deal leaked, Henry immediately canceled the business. Everbright denied any knowledge. Sources say Staveley was devastated. The setback is said to have hardened her decision to buy a Premier League club. Newcastle was introduced to her within a month. ‘We said, ‘Do this,’ said a colleague. “And once she wants to do something, she’s very tenacious.”

The Middle East was the only hunting ground where a deal of this magnitude was struck. “If you’re Staveley, part of the game is getting close to these people and knowing what they want,” said a source familiar with the region. “Not many people do that.”

An idea of ​​how successfully the 48-year-old has been circulating in such echelons surfaced during testimony in a Supreme Court case she brought against Barclays last year for allegedly misleading her during the 2008 financial crisis. deal.

Staveley and husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi in St James' Park after last week's takeover

Staveley and husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi in St James’ Park after last week’s takeover

The case details how she attended one of the highly traditional male-dominated ‘Majlis’ receptions hosted by Sheikh Mansour at the Royal Palace of Abu Dhabi – a glorified evening of musical chairs where wealthy guests inevitably get 10 minutes with Mansour, a – to one. Staveley had scheduled a more formal meeting with Mansour the same weekend.

Prince Turki, a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family, appears intermittently in court documents. Mansour is patched to one conference call from a hunting trip in Kazakhstan. And there are regular meetings with Ali Jassim, an adviser to Mansour, who met her while they were working on the Manchester City deal and with whom she seems very close.

Via text messages, Jassim told Staveley that he would “always be with you” during the Barclays fallout. “You are very dear to me,” he said in another. ‘We have a fruitful future together.’

Newcastle’s money was secured aboard ‘Serene’, the mega yacht of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Those who have worked closely with Staveley do not feel that football is in her blood.

‘It’s just an investment: ‘How do you make this more valuable?” said the colleague.

Another source believes there may be a Leeds United supporter – Staveley grew up in nearby Ripon, North Yorkshire and attended the private Queen Margaret’s School in York before attending St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. There is entertainment on Merseyside that she has now described Newcastle fans as ‘the best in the world’.

Some attribute her desire to enjoy the unique position of club ownership to the special urgency that life has ahead of her. In 2013, she was diagnosed with the gene for Huntington’s disease, a rare and incurable brain disorder.

The diagnosis came two years after her marriage to Mehrdad Ghodoussi, a former banker who had worked for her company and is now its managing partner.

Staveley's extraordinary visibility on Tyneside has given a taste of what ownership feels like

Staveley’s extraordinary visibility on Tyneside has given a taste of what ownership feels like

Running a club is already proving more difficult than Staveley expected. Newcastle will not be saying goodbye to manager Steve Bruce before Sunday’s game with Tottenham, as they had originally wanted.

But Staveley’s extraordinary visibility on Tyneside, visiting the training ground and meeting fans and staff with cameras lurking, has finally given a taste of what ownership feels like, while allowing the Saudis to avoid questions about their human rights record and be unobtrusive.

“I can’t remember a 10 percent shareholder being so visible when a club was bought,” said one of the sources. “She must have known that the Saudis need her as a figurehead. They’ll thank her for that.’

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