The glamorous financier who brought blood money into the Premier League: How Amanda Staveley, 48, used her little black book of Gulf-tycoon contacts to orchestrate the £305m takeover of Newcastle United by group linked to the murderous Saudi regime
- Amanda Staveley, 48, turned down a marriage proposal from Prince Andrew
- Has string of high-profile financial deals and top contacts in Middle East
- The mother-of-one has readily admitted that she divides opinion in the City
- She is the British face of the £305 million takeover deal of Newcastle United
- Said: ‘Our partner is not the Saudi state’, despite PIF funding 80 per cent of deal
Amanda Staveley is one of the most powerful businesswomen in the world, having orchestrated the £305 million Newcastle United takeover – but the glamorous financier’s dealings may come at a sharp price.
The 48-year-old willowy blonde, from Yorkshire, who is worth £100 million and once turned down a proposal from Prince Andrew, is at the centre of a political storm this week after she helped a Saudi-Arabian backed consortium PIF buy the Premier League club from Mike Ashley.
Critics have called it football’s darkest day, allowing the murderous state to ‘sportswash’ its reputation around the globe, in a deal brokered by Amanda – seen as a role model for women in business – who has used that power to cosy up to one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, especially for women.
She has become a multi-millionairess in part by making adept use of her little black book of Gulf-tycoon contacts, who she courted in the racing community while running a restaurant near Newmarket in the ’90s, bringing people together to hatch deals and bagging a large fee in the process.
The Premier League has been widely criticised for the deal and is being ask to reveal the ‘legally binding assurances’ it claims to have received before accepting PIF’s assertions that it is separate to the totalitarian state and the royal family wouldn’t interfere in club goings-on, despite the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), being PIF’s chairman.
However Amanda has insisted the partnership will be a force for good, telling The Guardian: ‘I understand and appreciate all the messages on human rights and we treat them very seriously. But I wouldn’t bring partners into the consortium if they didn’t have the right record and PIF is autonomous and independent of the Saudi government. PIF owns Newcastle, not the Saudi state.
Glamorous financier Amanda Staveley, 48, went from growing up in a tiny Yorkshire village to orchestrating the Saudi £305 million takeover of Newcastle United
‘In buying Newcastle PIF are not going to hide and we’re proud of them; we need, strong, brave, partners. I love brave, passionate, people, that’s how I do business.’
And among those criticising Amanda’s deal is Hatice Cengiz, the Turkish woman engaged to marry Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist murdered by a hit squad of 15 Saudi Arabian agents, who called it ‘so sad’, adding: ‘It is a real shame for Newcastle and English football’.
In this country, Amanda lives in a huge £10 million property on swanky Park Lane in London and domestic life seems settled with Lexi and husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi, an Iranian businessman she married in a lavish event in Buckinghamshire in 2011.
Amanda’s family wealth dates back to the 16th century when Henry VIII’s one-time favourite, Cardinal Wolsey, granted them a plot of land at North Stainley in North Yorkshire.
Her father Robert is a wealthy landowner while mum Lynne is a former champion horsewoman.
The family home is in the Yorkshire village near Ripon, where her father Robert founded the Lightwater Valley theme park.
When she was a girl, her parents told her that tradition dictated her brother would inherit the family’s considerable wealth, while her role should be to marry into money. Instead, she chose to make it for herself.
She dreamed of being an Olympian as a child, either as a show jumper or a sprinter, before injury forced her to give up elite sport.
Although she sometimes plays the blunt Yorkshirewoman, Amanda attended the £29,250-a-year Queen Margaret’s School in York, thought of as the Northern equivalent of Cheltenham Ladies College.
When in the UK, Amanda stays in a huge £10 million property on swanky Park Lane in London and domestic life seems settled with Lexi and husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi, an Iranian businessman she married in a lavish event in Buckinghamshire in 2011.
After boarding school, Amanda secured a place at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, to read modern languages, but when her grandfather died she abandoned her course and decided to pursue her passion for business.
She later said: ‘I was at the end of my tether. I had always been the perfect student as a child, but suddenly the pressure got too much.’
When she was 23, she obtained a £180,000 loan to open a restaurant called Stocks in the village of Bottisham, near Newmarket in 1996.
Working there as chef and waitress, any shortfall in takings was topped up by her occasional work as a model.
Customers included members of the racing community from nearby Newmarket, not least from the Godolphin stables owned by Dubai’s ruling family, the Maktoums.
The family home is in the Yorkshire village near Ripon, where her father Robert founded the Lightwater Valley theme park
Entrepreneurs from Cambridge’s ‘Silicon Fen’ high-tech business community were also regulars.
With her genius for networking, this was all the start Amanda needed. At the same time she was studying for City exams to become a financial adviser.
Through the restaurant she got to know Newmarket’s flat racing fraternity — in particular Gulf royalty who invested in English bloodstock.
Soon after, she launched her next money-making venture, Q.ton, a health club, gym, restaurant and conference centre, in Cambridge Science Park.
In 2000, aged just 27, she was named Businesswoman of the Year.
It was in these decidedly unromantic surroundings that, in 2001, she met Prince Andrew, who was escorting King Abdullah of Jordan on a fact-finding mission of the area.
Amanda was introduced to Prince Andrew at the Q Ton Centre in Cambridge Science Park in 2000, and the pair went on to date, with the Duke reportedly proposing to the businesswoman
Amanda was introduced to a host of royals, including Andrew’s daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie (pictured with Eugenie in 2015)
Staveley was in the VIP meet-and-greet line-up and her good looks did not go unnoticed by the Prince who invited her out to dinner the next day.
Despite the fact she was already in a relationship with the financier Mark Horrocks, romance blossomed.
She soon became a regular guest at Buckingham Palace, where she was introduced to senior Royals including the Duke of Edinburgh.
She was introduced to his daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and the pair often dined at the exclusive Mosimann’s in London’s Belgravia.
Amanda politely declined a marriage proposal in 2003, fearing life as a Royal spouse would compromise her career, though the prince’s status, and his then role as a UK trade envoy, can only have helped her networking.
‘She hates the whole glamour girl and Prince Andrew thing,’ one prominent London businessman who has worked with her previously revealed.
Amanda attended the £29,250-a-year Queen Margaret’s School in York before winning a place at Cambridge University – but ended up dropping out of her degree
The decision sorely disappointed her parents. She would later reveal that it took her mother three years to get over it.
Throughout her royal dalliance Staveley had maintained her links to the Middle East and by 2005 was running Dubai-based private equity company PCP Capital Partners, securing international deals for clients in Qatar and the UAE.
In 2008 she brokered the £210 million sale of Manchester City Football Club to Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour. At the same time she was eyeing up opportunities to invest in a British bank.
Not only has she been involved in a string of high-profile financial deals but prides herself on her wealthy Middle Eastern contacts.
The Telegraph has claimed insiders stress that she is trusted by oil-rich sheikhs ‘like almost no other non-Arab’.
Meanwhile a former executive who worked with her suggested she was on speaking terms with everyone of note in the Middle East, saying: ‘It does take a long while to gain the trust of these families but once you have it, it is total. I don’t think there is a ruler in the Middle East that doesn’t know her.’
One former executive who worked with her suggested she was on speaking terms with everyone of note in the Middle East,
As well as the Newcastle United transaction, Amanda was involved in the sale of Manchester City to Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour in 2008. Another deal, to sell Liverpool FC to Dubai, did not come off despite years of trying (pictured in Liverpool in 2008)
That same year, she played a prominent role in brokering a £7.3billion investment in Barclays.
As a result, the British taxpayer was allegedly forced to fork out more money in order to bail out the company during the financial crisis. But Staveley was unrepentant and refused to accept any of the blame.
She sued the bank for hundreds of millions of pounds after making complaints about the behaviour of bosses when negotiating investment deals during the 2008 financial crisis.
She claimed her PCP Capital Partner would have invested in the bank on ‘vastly better terms’ 13 years ago but for Barclays’ ‘false representations’ – Barclays have always contested the claim.
However her claim was dismissed in a ruling in February this year.
With a £10 million Regency townhouse in Park Lane, London, and a home in Dubai, Amanda’s is a life of chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce Phantoms whisking her to top Mayfair restaurants, of private jets and super-yachts
With a £10 million Regency townhouse in Park Lane, London, and a home in Dubai, where her neighbours include tennis legend Roger Federer, hers is a life of chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce Phantoms whisking her to top Mayfair restaurants, of private jets and super-yachts.
Despite once saying, ‘Whoever marries me would have to be a hell of a hero to put up with me and my life,’ she eventually found love, tying the knot with Iranian Mehrdad Ghodoussi, whom she had worked with at her company, in 2011.
Ghodoussi, two years her senior, proposed to her on Valentine’s Day at sunset on the dunes overlooking the Arabian Sea where they live in Dubai, presenting her with a giant ring of three baguette diamonds.
Their lavish wedding was held at West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire, where guests included Tracey Emin, Katie Derham and Andrew Neil.
She is said by sources close to her to have £28 billion under management including wealthy investors in the Middle East, Far East and the U.S., and countries’ sovereign wealth funds
Amanda wore a strapless, tight-bodiced dress made by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, who designed the Duchess of Cambridge’s bridal gown.
She counts retail tycoon Sir Philip Green and Simon Cowell among her friends.
‘There are still some people who cannot compute that it’s possible to be an attractive woman and have a brain. She has a ‘deal list’ many investment bankers would kill for,’ one friend previously said.
Another, however, describes her as ‘very hyper’, saying ‘you have the impression she isn’t telling you everything.’
Friends say that she is keen to achieve as much as she can while she is still able. Her illness, combined with relatively late motherhood, tell a rather more complex story than her glossy image might at first suggest.
The businesswoman, who was diagnosed in 2013 with Huntington’s disease, a degenerative brain condition that has no cure, now lives in Dubai but spends more time in the UK since the birth of her son Alexander, nicknamed Lexi, in 2014.
The genetic disease which stops your brain working – and is usually fatal within 20 years
Huntington’s disease is a condition that stops parts of the brain working properly over time. It’s passed on (inherited) from a person’s parents.
It gets gradually worse over time and is usually fatal after a period of up to 20 years.
Symptoms usually start at 30 to 50 years of age, but can begin much earlier or later.
Symptoms of Huntington’s disease can include: difficulty concentrating and memory lapses; depression; stumbling and clumsiness; involuntary jerking or fidgety movements of the limbs and body; mood swings and personality changes; problems swallowing, speaking and breathing; difficulty moving.
Full-time nursing care is needed in the later stages of the condition. It’s usually fatal about 15 to 20 years after symptoms start.
Huntington’s disease is caused by a faulty gene that results in parts of the brain becoming gradually damaged over time.
You’re usually only at risk of developing it if one of your parents has or had it. Both men and women can get it.
If a parent has the Huntington’s disease gene, there’s a:
1 in 2 (50%) chance of each of their children developing the condition – affected children are also able to pass the gene to any children they have
Very occasionally, it’s possible to develop Huntington’s disease without having a history of it in your family. But this is usually just because one of your parents was never diagnosed with it.
There’s currently no cure for Huntington’s disease or any way to stop it getting worse.
But treatment and support can help reduce some of the problems it causes.
birth of her son Alexander, nicknamed Lexi, in 2014.
He was born prematurely after Amanda went into labour in a business meeting but is now a healthy little boy.
Amanda and PCP spearheaded the Saudi-backed £300 million takeover bid for Newcastle United Football Club from owner Mike Ashley.
She is said by sources close to her to have £28 billion under management including wealthy investors in the Middle East, Far East and the U.S., and countries’ sovereign wealth funds.
Now rated as one of the Middle East’s most powerful businesswomen, her worth is put at more than £100 million.
People who have worked with her say she is not a mere go-between but has a finely-honed financial brain, and a keen grasp of complex investments.
The takeover of Newcastle United went through fourteen months after Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) withdrew a £305 million bid to buy the north-east club from Sports Direct owner Mr Ashley following the Premier League’s failure to give regulatory approval.
The deal coincided with the state lifting its four-year ban on beIN Sports, which shows Premier League (EPL) matches in the Gulf.
The EPL has been widely criticised and is being ask to reveal the ‘legally binding assurances’ it said it received before accepting PIF’s claims that it is separate to the totalitarian state, and its ruling royal family wouldn’t interfere, despite the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), being PIF’s chairman.
Hatice Cengiz, the Turkish woman engaged to marry Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist murdered by a hit squad of 15 Saudi Arabian agents after he criticised bin Salman in the Washington Post, said the deal was ‘so sad’, adding: ‘It is a real shame for Newcastle and English football’.
She said of the Premier League: ‘They shouldn’t have let them wash (blood from) their hands with this business. By giving the green light to those linked with crime, this will kill more people, values and human rights and they should think about that. They should stand with me, and Jamal’.
Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s CEO, said: ‘We can understand that this will be seen as a great day by many Newcastle United fans, but it’s also a very worrying day for anyone who cares about the ownership of English football clubs and whether these great clubs are being used to sportswash human rights abuse. This deal was always more about sportswashing than it was about football, with Saudi Arabia’s aggressive move into sport as a vehicle for image-management and PR plain for all to see.’
There were wild celebrations outside St James’ Park yesterday when the deal was announced but MPs and human rights groups have furious about the deal, which makes Newcastle the richest club in the world back by a fund worth at least $500billion and predicted to be worth $1trillion by 2025.
Supporters threw beer, put tea towels on their heads, dressed as sheikhs and waved Saudi flags to celebrate the end of the hated Ashley era and new hope they could win their first major trophy since 1955, but they are now in the hands of a tyrannical regime who human rights groups believe will exploit the club to polish its murky global image, especially over its murder and incarceration of critics and the ongoing war with Yemen, where its population has been bombed and starved.
Alan Shearer, the club’s greatest player who the new owners hope to make a club ambassador with Kevin Keegan, said last week that it was a ‘special day’ for the club – but added: ‘I understand that questions have to be asked about the human rights issues, it’s really important that we don’t brush them under the carpet’.
Left: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). Right: Chairman of the Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) Yasir al-Rumayyan Yasir al-Rumayyan. It is believed that PIF will have a 80 percent stake in the club
Crown Prince Bin Salman is said to have warned Boris Johnson that Anglo-Saudi relations could be affected if the Premier League didn’t approve the takeover.
Meanwhile Grant Shapps insisted that the deal had passed the ‘very clear’ owners and directors test used by the Premier League.
‘If people pass that test, as the rules and the law stands, people are entitled to invest in clubs,’ he said, adding: ‘My understanding in this case is that there has been a complete separation between the country and the business that is involved so there is no direct control.
‘I have to confess you are not in my area of complete expertise, but I do know the owners and directors test has to have been passed otherwise this (firm) could not have taken over. I do know the fans seemed pretty pleased about it when I saw them celebrating on the TV last night’.
Pictured: Newcastle United supporters celebrate in Newcastle Upon Tyne last week after a Saudi-Arabian backed consortium completed its purchase of the Premier League club
Newcastle United fans celebrate at St James’ Park following the announcement that The Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle has been approved. Picture date: Thursday October 7, 2021
MBS, whose Gulf state has horrified the world because of its treatment of women, LGBT people and minority groups, was vilified globally having been accused of ordering the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who was critical of the state and its leaders.
Mr Khashoggi had been invited to his country’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 for an appointment to pick up documents that would allow him to get married to his Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz. He never walked out.
A team of 15 Saudi agents had flown to Turkey to meet Mr Khashoggi inside the consulate. He was strangled and then dismembered with a bone saw by the 15-man Saudi squad. His remains have not been found.
After the Premier League confirmed the struggling club had been sold to a consortium consisting of PIF, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media with immediate effect, fans began celebrating wildly outside the St James’ Park stadium, throwing beer into the air and donning tea towels on their heads.
But while they were celebrating, critics of the takeover said it was another example of Saudi ‘sportswashing’. Many opposed to the takeover point to Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women, its on-going war in Yemen, and the 2018 killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country’s Istanbul consulate – found by the CIA to be ordered by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) himself.
Intelligence services in the United States have named Bin Salman as signing off on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (pictured) in 2018, inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul
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