A-League set to sell Newcastle Jets by Christmas

The firm in charge of selling the Newcastle Jets has told ESPN that its "absolute focus" is to complete the sale of the A-League club by Christmas.

The Jets have been without ownership since January, 2021, when Martin Lee was stripped of his licence due to unpaid obligations and a lack of investment. The club has since been kept afloat by a consortium of fellow A-League clubs but, with an owner unable to be found during this period of conservatorship, chief executive Shane Mattiske announced on Monday that professional services firm KordaMentha had been retained to engineer a sale.

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Also responsible for this month's sale of Perth Glory to Melbourne-based property tycoon Robert Brij, KordaMentha has been in place at the Jets for almost a month reviewing the club's operations and ensuring it is fit to take to market after initially being approached by the Novcastrian outfit.

"The intention is to have the Jets with new shareholders come Christmas and to have the sale process complete before the end of this year," Scott Langdon, a partner at KordaMentha who is overseeing the sale, told ESPN.

"We've gone on a global stage to try and find new owners. Inbound inquiry over the last 72 hours has been strong. Quite a wide-ranging level of interest from people attached to the Newcastle region, Australian businesses and plenty of international parties who are interested in buying.

"We're going to run a two-phased approach where the initial bids will be due in three or four weeks from today. And then we'll then narrow down to a small number of interested parties. And then we'll do a high-intensity secondary phase to get to a final bidder, sign the documentation and give the Jets a new set of owners for the longer term."

Langdon said that neither the A-League, nor the clubs propping up the Jets, had provided specific instructions or minimum requirements regarding the process and that KordaMentha had received "full backing" to handle the sale. Though not ruling any combinations out, a single individual taking over 100% of the licence was described as being the "most efficient" and "most likely" means of sale rather than various minority stakes. Langdon also confirmed that interest had been received by parties previously interested in the Perth and Auckland licences, as well as from multi-club football networks abroad.

Langdon wouldn't comment on what kind of fee the licence would demand but ruled out re-location, saying that "the Jets will be maintained in Newcastle, that's for sure and certain."

The Jets' licence is one of six the A-League have been trying to sell in 2023, with the Glory's sale being shopped alongside an expansion process that aims to grow the league to 16 clubs by 2025-26. Bournemouth owner Bill Foley was last month announced as the preferred bidder for an A-Leagues side in Auckland that would begin play in 2024-25, with the search for an owner for a Canberra licence and two further markets yet to be determined ongoing.

However, despite frequent claims and rumours that an announcement was imminent, no club has been without ownership as long as Newcastle, leaving the Jets in a state of almost purgatory since 2021, with neither their men's nor women's teams have played finals since Lee's ousting.

"I don't have a view on what had been executed in the past. I wasn't involved with it," Langdon said. "But what I do know is that we are doing something different to what they've done in the past. This is a public process. We've been openly appointed to find new owners, it's transparent ... we're for sale and we will transact with the highest and best bidder.

"The A-League is an attractive proposition at the moment.

"The data suggests that football is the biggest [participatory sport in] all football codes in Australia in the under-35 categories. There's a really good narrative behind the A-Leagues generally and you saw that by the level of competition in Perth, the fact that they could simultaneously run a sale process concerning Canberra and Auckland going in a transaction [at the same time].

"And then the Jets specifically, with strong community links, strong regional links. And above that, it's a club that's already stood up. It's gone through a rebuild over the past three years with Shane [Mattiske] and his team, they've done just a tremendous job to stabilise and then now we're presenting the club to market in a really good form.

"It's a compelling proposition where you don't need to start from scratch."