Amanda Staveley’s loss in the High Court adds another confusing layer to a takeover picture shrouded in mystery.
Staveley’s loss leaves her PCP Capital Partners facing a potentially seven-figure legal bill after a claim for £600million in damages was defeated. For the financier, whose high-profile attempts to buy Newcastle United have been dashed twice, it must come as a bitter blow just months after the Saudi PIF deal collapsed in the summer in acrimony.
For many watching on from Tyneside, there was a fascination in the details it revealed about her, the way her company does business and her credibility was at stake in court.
On that point, it seems less like a win for Barclays – accused of “deceit” even in avoiding having to pay out to PCP.
Indeed sources close to the City financier were keen to point out the positives of the judgement, describing it as a “reputational clean slate” for the high-profile businesswoman.
After bruising encounters in court she was accused of engaging in a “hustle” and her credibility was called into question, with lawyers for the bank accusing her of “embellishments”. For those who doubt her, those accusations were seized upon in a summer where another takeover bid, ultimately, fell through.
But those headline-grabbing accusations were dismissed by Mr Justice Waksman, who had taken around six months to consider mountains of evidence in the case.
The Judge did not doubt her contacts, said her evidence was reliable and accepted that she was part of the deal. He described her as a “tough, clever and creative entrepreneur” – words that Staveley, still hoping to revive the Newcastle takeover, wants a Tyneside audience to be aware of.
On many points, the Judge found in her favour but crucially, he did not believe Staveley’s PCP group would have been able to raise the finance to support Barclays, thus dismissing her claim for around £600million of damages.
She said afterward: “In spite of Barclays’ efforts to question my character and credentials, the court has recognised my abilities as a businesswoman and the truth of my account of events.
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“The judgement confirms what I have said from the outset and repeated in my evidence; a senior executive at Barclays repeatedly lied to me when seeking private investment in the bank during the 2008 financial crisis.
“The evidence at trial was clear and unequivocal; PCP was an investor in the transaction and played an integral role in the capital raising, which ultimately prevented the bank from being nationalised.
“I will be taking advice on appealing the judge’s decision not to award damages.”
For Staveley, reputation and credibility are important but she remains a mysterious and curious figure for many Newcastle fans.
Is she salvation or skilled saleswoman? Ultimately, only time will tell.
When her involvement in the Saudi bid was first revealed, many fretted that it may be another case of raised hopes which would be ultimately dashed. As it turned out, she had put together a blockbuster deal capable of transforming the club.
But summer promises it was close did end up being dashed. She was devastated, along with most of the Newcastle fanbase.
Since then the takeover has spawned an industry of its own and Mike Ashley’s legal action has added credibility to the claims it may yet be revived. Certainly, sources close to Staveley insist the Saudis will be coaxed back to the table if a route can be found to unlock the owners and directors process.
But how realistic is that? Nobody knows and for United fans engaged in the muck and nettles of another relegation fight with Steve Bruce at the helm, it may be that the noise has become a smokescreen for Ashley and the people he has installed at St James’ Park to ignore their responsibilities to the institution they still run.
The takeover represents hope but Gulf politics are bewildering and troubling. The release of the CIA report into Jamal Khassogi’s death next week may be awkward for anyone with ties to Saudi Arabia and PIF.
Staveley deserves credit for her dogged determination to pursue the deal but will be ultimately judged on Tyneside for whether it can be pulled back from the brink.
Today’s judgement is, according to those close to her, a defeat with a silver lining. She proved her point but did not win her case. For those hoping for a takeover, they’ll hope this is her final defeat.