1. ITV Report

Newcastle United - 'four interested parties' look to buy club

St James' Park. Credit: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire/PA Images

The man tasked with finding a buyer for Newcastle has already been inundated with enquiries according to reports.

Monday night's announcement that the club is officially on the market is understood to have set City lawyer Andrew Henderson's telephone ringing as owner Mike Ashley targets a deal before Christmas.

Henderson and his team are sifting through calls in a bid to weed out time-wasters from genuine candidates.

Businesswoman Amanda Staveley at St James' Park earlier this month. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/PA Images

Press Association Sport understands non-disclosure agreements with four interested parties have been signed, while speculation has been rife in recent weeks that Amanda Staveley could be ready to make a move.

Staveley, who played a key role in Sheikh Mansour's takeover of Manchester City in 2008, is said to control around £28b of Middle East money through PCP Capital Partners and is reportedly looking to invest in an English top-flight club.

She met club officials after attending the 1-1 Premier League draw with Liverpool at St James' Park on October 1st, although there has as yet been no formal expression of interest.

Mike Ashley's asking price is thought to be £300m - £450m. Credit: Newcastle United

Meanwhile, claims have been dismissed that Turkish billionaire Murat Ulker, chairman of Yildiz Holding which owns the McVitie's biscuit brand, was ready to launch a bid.

A spokesman for Yildiz Holding told Press Association Sport: "The company is not purchasing Newcastle United Football Club and no discussions about the team have taken place. We wish them the best of luck in finding a new owner."

Mike Ashley. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Archive/PA Images

Ashley is hoping it will be a case of third time lucky as he attempts to finally offload the club he brought for £134.4m in 2007, following his two unsuccessful previous attempts to sell up.

However, sources close to the Sports Direct businessman have insisted he will only do business with a buyer who is able fund significant spending in a way he admitted recently he cannot do.

As a result, there is no exact price tag, with speculation suggesting the current owner is looking for anywhere between £300m and £450m before relinquishing control.

But there is a requirement to demonstrate a willingness to take the club forward on and off the field.

Rafa Benitez during the Premier League match at Southampton on Sunday. Credit: John Walton/PA Wire/PA Images

The riches available to English football's big guns - the current broadcast deal is worth £5.14b - are a huge pull.

There is the added advantage of Newcastle having former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez at the helm and 52,000-plus home crowds.

Benitez cut a frustrated figure in both January and the summer as his transfer plans were severely limited by Ashley's decision not to fund major transfer spending.

He believed funds would be forthcoming, prompting the owner's frank admission which in turn perhaps signalled what was to come.

However, an ongoing HMRC investigation into allegations that the club abused the tax system may prove a complication.