Ex-Sunderland shareholder eyes Toon takeover

DUBLIN - A former Sunderland shareholder said on Sunday he was putting together a consortium to bid for Newcastle United. Irish publican Charlie Chawke, part of the Drumaville consortium which bought Sunderland in 2006 before selling its stake earlier this year, said talks on purchasing the Championship club were at an early stage. Newcastle owner Mike Ashley officially put the club up for sale for 100 million pounds last month and British media have reported that one consortium from Malaysia and another from the U.S. are in pole position to take over. "We are in talks with Newcastle at the moment. Our legal and financial people are speaking to the legal and financial people over there," Chawke told Irish state broadcaster RTE. "Negotiations are not too advanced. It's at an initial stage but we have got a fairly good response. There's great interest, it's just a matter of putting the money together." Chawke said he hoped to assemble a group of investors of similar size to the eight that bought Sunderland and that fellow former shareholder and publican Louis Fitzgerald was part of the new consortium. He said that both did not wish to leave Sunderland but were outvoted when American businessman Ellis Short bought the group's stake in May. "We had three great years there (Sunderland) but unfortunately we're gone now and we're looking for options. We have to look at options other than Sunderland and Newcastle would fit very nicely into our portfolio." "Newcastle is a very viable option at the moment. It's for sale for about 100 million pounds, which is about 500 million less than it was worth a year and a half or two years ago." Newcastle were relegated from the Premier League last season.