May 23, 2007 / 2:35 PM / 12 years ago

UPDATE 1-Retailer Mike Ashley bids for Newcastle soccer club

LONDON, May 23 (Reuters) - Retail entrepreneur Mike Ashley launched a 133.1 million pound ($263 million) offer for Newcastle United Plc NCU.L on Wednesday and said he had already bought a 41.6 percent stake in the English soccer club. Ashley, who in February floated his Sports Direct (SPD.L) retail business, said his bid vehicle, St. James Holdings Ltd, had bought 55.3 million shares from the club’s biggest shareholder and life president, John Hall and his family, at 100 pence apiece.

Ashley, who runs the Sports World and Lillywhites retail chains, said he was offering to buy the rest of the club’s shares at the same price, which represents a 19 percent premium to Tuesday’s close of 84p.

“Newcastle United has a wonderful heritage and the passion of its fans is legendary,” Mike Ashley said in a statement.

“I am sure that, like me, they are already excited about the prospects for next season under the new manager’s stewardship,” he said, adding that John Hall would remain life president.

Mike Ashley said in a statement: “I am pleased that Sir John has agreed to remain as life president of the club.”

Shares in Newcastle United, which finished the last season 13th in the English premier league, jumped more than 14 percent to 96p, valuing the firm at 127.8 million pounds.

Last year, U.S. hedge fund Polygon as well as Jersey-based investment firm Belgravia Group had mulled bids for the club, but both dropped their takeover plans.

((Reporting by Kerstin Neuber and Mark Potter, Editing by David Jones/Rory Channing

Reuters Messaging: rm://mark.potter.reuters.com@reuters.net

Tel: +44 20 7542 7717, Fax: +44 20 7542 9025))

($1=.5062 Pound) Keywords: NEWCASTLE OFFER/

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