UK minister 'pushed for Saudi takeover' of Newcastle United
Newcastle was eventually purchased by Riyadh's sovereign wealth fund in 2021 for £305 million causing huge controversy owing to the kingdom's human rights abuses.
Exclusive: Gerry Grimstone vowed to take Premier League plan to 'highest levels' of Saudi government, documents obtained by openDemocracy show https://t.co/7mFsozINys— openDemocracy (@openDemocracy) September 26, 2022
Grimstone is a former banker with high-level contacts in Saudi Arabia. In 2020, he reportedly told Premier League Chairman Gary Hoffman that he could "confirm from the highest levels of the Saudi [g]overnment whether [the takeover] is deliverable and we all will then know where this stands", OpenDemocracy reported.
The documents were released by the Department of International Trade in response to a freedom of information request by the outlet.
They include four memos sent by Grimstone in August 2020 to the British ambassador in Saudi Arabia and two officials in Downing Street telling them of his discussions with Hoffman.
The revelation appears to contradict the claim of former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the government had nothing to do with the Gulf kingdom's controversial takeover of the Premier League club.
"The government was not involved at any point in the takeover talks on the sale of Newcastle United," Johnson said in response to a parliamentary question in April 2021.
Grimstone has rejected the claims that he was involved in facilitating the takeover, saying it was his job to keep up to date with large investments coming to the UK.
Saudi Arabia's takeover of Newcastle has been highly criticised due to the government imprisoning hundreds of dissidents, activists, and journalists and continues to severely restrict the rights of women.