The £300million takeover of Newcastle United is now in the hands of the Premier League, Sportsmail understands.
Sources have disclosed that all the necessary paperwork has been lodged with the competition, and that the potential deal now awaits their approval.
They have added that the process should take around ‘three to four weeks’, meaning that a consortium – backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – could be in place well before the start of the new season.
And, for the first time, Sportsmail has learnt that Ashley has told friends he believes a takeover is ‘closer than it has ever been’.
So far, there has been no word from Ashley or those close to him as to whether an agreement has been reached over a £300m deal, and that remains the case.
However, we have been told Ashley has indicated to friends that the sale of the club has never been nearer in his 13 years as owner.
The deal has been brokered by businesswoman Amanda Staveley, who seeks to take a 10 per cent share along with the Reuben Brothers’ private equity firm and the remaining 80 per cent held by Saudi Arabia.
Newcastle and the Premier League have both declined to comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, sources close to Newcastle believe there is no chance of Ashley reversing his decision to claim from the government fund after furloughing the majority of non-playing staff.
This newspaper has spoken to some of those involved who say they have heard nothing to suggest a change of situation.
The club are not commenting and were unable to confirm if a discussion over the matter had even taken place. Ashley is currently in Florida with his family, where he has been since before the coronavirus lockdown.