With a new era in the football-mad city of Newcastle potentially weeks, if not days away, Sky Sports uncovers what Toon fans should know about Yasir Al-Rumayyan – the man tasked with steering them to the top table of European football.
COVID-19 has brought the footballing world to a standstill, at least in terms of playing games, but year-long negotiations into the purchase of Mike Ashley’s club continued through February, March and into April, in part due to the determination of the man set to become the next chairman of Newcastle.Newcastle takeover: Contracts exchanged & deposit paidNewcastle takeover Q&A: Mike Ashley, Amanda Staveley, Steve BruceSteve Bruce to be given time to prove himself at Newcastle
Beyond the kingdom’s royal family, Yasir Al-Rumayyan is arguably the most important man in Saudi Arabia.
The Harvard Business School graduate is a rarity in Saudi business circles, with the majority of the country’s organisations headed by members of the Al Saud royal family.
In September 2015, Saudi’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, hired the 50-year-old former investment banker to manage the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
However, this is no ordinary fund. In five years, PIF has more than doubled the global assets it now manages to more than £264bn, making it one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world.
The fact Al-Rumayyan aims to increase that figure to £1.6trillion by 2030 gives an indication of his plans for the organisation, which will own 80 per cent of the Premier League club once the takeover is confirmed.
A determination to complete the protracted negotiations, coupled with PIF’s ambitious growth projections, suggest Newcastle is not about to become an occasional play thing of the Saudi royal family.
Along with a seat on the board of global technology giants Uber, Al-Rumayyan plays a key role in the country’s Vision 2030, an ambitious reform blueprint to wean Saudi off its dependence on oil and drive an economic strategy in the post-oil period.’New owners must rebuild Newcastle properly’Newcastle takeover: 10 moments that shaped Mike Ashley’s reign
The volatile price of a barrel of oil dropping this week to below zero has brought into stark focus the country’s reliance on its major asset, which generates 70 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s wealth.
And if these roles didn’t fill his business calendar to bursting, Al-Rumayyan is the chairman of the board of the country’s oil company ‘Saudi Aramco’, one of the largest companies in the world and, according to Bloomberg News, the most profitable company on the planet.
Details of Al-Rumayyan’s life beyond the boardroom are few and far between. However, he has done little to hide his love of golf and plays off a respectable 12 handicap. When asked, he refused to confirm whether his lofty status in the kingdom meant his opponents offered up a ‘gimmie’ so to avoid any putts over two feet. However he joked that he’s a dab hand when getting out of sand traps!
Yet, even on the fairway, Al-Rumayyan is forced to think strategically, as the boss of Golf Saudi, the country’s fledgling golf association.
Despite having only a handful of courses across the country, Al-Rumayyan has secured two PGA events in Saudi along with the first women’s professional golf event – the $1m Saudi Ladies International – to be staged in the country and now rescheduled for October 8-11.
The event will be the latest in a series of sporting firsts hosted by the gulf state, which include Anthony Joshua’s December fight against Andy Ruiz Jr; the Spanish Super Cup and the world’s richest horse race the £15m Saudi Cup. Plans are already well underway for Saudi to host its first Formula One race in 2023.
The gulf state remains acutely aware of accusations of ‘sportwashing’ and continued international pressure to improve their human rights record and accelerate domestic social reforms.
The desire to diversify its economy and spread its global investments has, with the help of Amanda Staveley, led Al-Rumayyan to St James’ Park.
Financial Fair Play rules will mean investment in a team to compete against Europe’s best will be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. Newcastle fans will be hopeful rather than euphoric at the potential changes on Tyneside.
The protracted negotiations have provided breathing space for Newcastle’s chairman-elect to learn more about the passion generated on Tyneside for the black and white stripes. He knows the club is in need of some ‘TLC’ and plans to provide days to remember for a city starved of celebrations and silverware on the pitch.
When he will be able to take his seat at St James’ Park to watch his new charges remains unclear.
However, in PIF and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the Geordie faithful appear to have the financial muscle, controlled by a power broker renowned for long-term strategic flair, allowing even the most cynical of Magpies to look to the future with a ray of hope.