Financier Amanda Staveley has caused a stir in the North East after being spotted watching Newcastle United's game against Liverpool yesterday.
Staveley – who manages a Middle East investment fund worth approximately £28 billion – is reported to be looking to buy a Premier League club, and with Magpies owner Mike Ashley keen on selling there has been a wave of excitement on Tyneside over the last 48 hours.
Staveley watched the Liverpool game with Hillsborough campaigner Margaret Aspinall, who was a guest of United manager Rafa Benitez.
The 44-year-old – who was involved in Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City – was seen heading down the tunnel after the match.
But who exactly is she?
Staveley was born in Ripon, North Yorkshire, and is the daughter of land owner Robert Staveley who, among other businesses, founded the Lightwater Valley theme park. She was a keen athlete and showjumper as a child, and won a place to read modern languages at St Catharine's College, Cambridge. She also worked as a part-time model. However, she dropped out of university and in 1996, at the age of 22 and without any training, borrowed £180,000 and bought the restaurant Stocks, in Bottisham between Cambridge and Newmarket.
Through Stocks, Staveley became friendly with the Newmarket horseracing scene, particularly those associated with the Godolphin Racing stables owned by the Al Maktoum family of Dubai. She later set up her own conference centre where investors were believed to include King Abdullah of Jordan. After this failed, she moved to Dubai and began cultivating connections in the Middle East. Her company, PCP Capital Partners, was described as vehicle for the investment of Middle Eastern money, with Staveley acting as an adviser on those deals.
HITTING THE BIG TIME
Staveley came to prominence in 2008 when Barclay Bank sought to recapitalise by raising money privately rather than accept a bail-out from the British government. Stavelely advised Sheikh Mansour on his £3.5 billion investment, for which he gained control of 16 per cent of the bank. Staveley reportedly earned a fee of £30 million for her role in the transaction.
DOES SHE HAVE ANY FOOTBALL EXPERIENCE?
Oh yes. Staveley had also advised Sheikh Mansour's £210 million takeover of Manchester City, a transaction reportedly worth £10 million in commission to PCP. Staveley also attempted to buy Liverpool for Dubai International Capital in 2008, when Rafa Benitez was in charge of the club. The deal, which would have given Staveley a place on the club's board, eventually foundered.
IS SHE CLOSE TO A DEAL WITH NEWCASTLE?
Not yet. A number of groups have registered their interest in buying United, but discussions are at very early stages. And there has been no formal contact, up to now, between Staveley and the club, even though she was seen disappearing down the tunnel at St James's Park yesterday after the game. There are no formal offers on the table for the club, nor to invest in Newcastle, but Staveley's emergence is intriguing. Watch this space.