Lord Gerry Grimstone: did former Tory minister facilitate Saudi Arabia-backed Newcastle United takeover?
A British life peer is said to have made ‘extensive efforts’ to ensure the deal to buy the Premier League club was completed.
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One House of Lords representative in particular has been named at the centre of the government’s involvement, Gerry Grimstone - the Baron Grimstone of Boscobel.
Lord Grimstone worked under Boris Johnson as the Minister of State for Investment at the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) between March 2020 and July 2022, and is said to have made ‘extensive efforts’ to facilitate the takeover.
Here is everything you need to know about Lord Grimstone, including his background and what has been reported about his involvement in the Newcastle United takeover.
Who is Lord Grimstone?
Gerry Grimstone was created as the Baron Grimstone of Boscobel in April 2020.
The Merton College, Oxford alumnus served as the Minister of State for Investment between March 2020 and July 202.
The businessman, 73, previously served as chairman of Standard Life (now Standard Life Aberdeen) from 2007 till 2019, deputy chairman of Barclays, non-executive director of Deloitte and lead non-executive director at the Ministry of Defence.
What was Lord Grimstone’s involvement in the Newcastle United takeover?
According to a report in The Guardian, Lord Grimstone was at the forefront of the UK government’s ‘extensive efforts’ to facilitate the Saudi Arabian takeover of Newcastle United.
The newspaper references a freedom of information request (FOI) that shows the 73-year old promised the Premier League he would secure a response to a proposed ‘way forward’ from ‘the highest levels of the Saudi government’.
Lord Grimstone is said to have asked then Premier League chairman, Gary Hoffman, to share their legal advice on ‘a way forward’ for the stalled takeover in August 2020.
The documents obtained by the FOI, which include internal memos copying in Downing Street officials, appear to contradict what former Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in April 2021 when he claimed “the government was not involved at any point in the takeover talks on the sale of Newcastle.”
What has Lord Grimstone said?
Responding to questions from The Guardian, Lord Grimstone said he “strongly” rejected concluding from the documents that he had been working hard to facilitate the takeover.
He told the newspaper: “Part of my role as investment minister was to keep abreast of large investments potentially coming into the UK.
“This was particularly important in investments such as Newcastle which were in the public domain and which were attracting a great deal of public interest.
“I made it very clear to Mr Hoffman that my only role was to facilitate the passing of ideas between the PIF and EPL and that in no way did I seek to prejudice the EPL’s complete autonomy in this matter.
“Naturally, as I would with any high-profile investment coming into the UK, I was concerned that the parties resolved this between themselves courteously and professionally whatever the outcome of their discussions.”
The Guardian reports that Johnson did not respond to questions about his statement to parliament, while a DIT spokesperson said the government stood by all its previous statements.
Hoffman, who told the clubs he was not influenced by the government pressure, declined to comment to the newspaper.
When was the Newcastle United takeover completed?
A consortium which was heavily backed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia bought Newcastle United from British retail billionaire Mike Ashley on 7 October 2021.
The report fee for which Ashley sold the club was £305 million which made the North East outfit the richest football club in the world.
The PIF took a majority 80% stake in the club whilst CP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers each took 10%.
A statement from the Premier League at the time said that they had “now received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club”.
Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the PIF, is the current chairman of Newcastle United while British businesswoman Amanda Staveley of PCP capital partners has been the face of the consortium and regularly attends matches at St James’ Park.