Soccer-Nigerian consortium bids for Newcastle United

LAGOS, Sept 29 (Reuters) - A consortium of Nigerian tycoons has launched a bid to buy ailing Premier League football club Newcastle United, the businessman heading the bid said on Monday.

Chris Nathaniel, who runs London-based football and entertainment consultancy NVA Management, told Reuters the consortium had presented its bid to the club late on Friday, but declined to give any further details.

Nathaniel said in an interview with Reuters last week that the Nigerian group could ask fans’ hero Kevin Keegan to return as manager if their bid succeeded.

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley put the team up for sale two weeks ago, having fallen foul of the fans after Keegan resigned saying he did not have full control over the buying and selling of players.

Nigerian media reports said last week that the consortium, whose members remain a closely guarded secret, had come up with 350 million pounds ($645 million) but wanted to find an additional 100-150 million to secure the deal. Nathaniel declined to comment on the size of the bid.

Ashley completed his 134 million pound takeover of Newcastle in July, 2007, but his relationship with the fans has deteriorated rapidly since Keegan’s sudden exit on Sept. 4, just eight months after returning for a second spell as manager.

“Kevin’s a legend on Tyneside and I think anybody looking to buy that football club would not be very smart if they didn’t have Kevin involved in some capacity, that’s if Kevin wants to come back,” Nathaniel told Reuters last week.

He said he had not yet contacted Keegan about returning.

Nathaniel, one of whose parents is Nigerian, said the idea of a Nigerian bid for an English club came during a trip to the soccer-mad West African country this year with Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, one of NVA Management’s clients.

He hopes the deal could create opportunities for young talent in Africa’s most populous nation by using one of the local teams as a feeder club for Newcastle. (Editing by John Mehaffey)