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Amanda Staveley did not go unnoticed when she showed up at The Masters golf tournament in April, representing the Saudi Arabian side of a rift that had divided the sport for almost two years.
The British financier made a beeline for PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, who had led opposition to the Saudi-funded breakaway LIV Golf circuit that spent hundreds of millions of dollars to tempt star players away from the US competition.
“She was my guest that day at the Masters,” said Matthew O’Donohoe, president of international for agency CAA Sports. “Out of the corner of my eye I saw Jay, she gets up, walks straight over, intercepts them and starts talking. She’s fearless.”
Few knew why she was there. But within two months, Monahan had agreed to a secretly brokered truce with Yasir al-Rumayyan, governor of the powerful Public Investment Fund chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ending a costly legal battle and paving the way for a formal partnership.
Staveley’s involvement underscores the trust she has built with al-Rumayyan since helping orchestrate the PIF’s £300mn acquisition of Newcastle United, a deal in which she also acquired a 10 per cent stake with the help of a loan from the British billionaire Reuben brothers.
Known for her role in Abu Dhabi royal Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s acquisition of Manchester City in 2008 and the emirate’s investment the same year that would help save UK bank Barclays from nationalisation, Staveley was well-placed to broker the latest sports deal by Gulf investors.
“She’s a relentless enthusiast and she’s authentic,” said Sir Nigel Wilson, chief executive of Legal and General and a Newcastle supporter. “You come away having a strong conviction that this person is trying to deliver the best outcome.”
Staveley, who turned 50 this year, has flourished in male-dominated environments, from the corridors of power in banking and the Middle East to football and Augusta, which has only allowed female members since 2012.
“Guys aren’t used to women from northern England rocking up and pitching them toe-to-toe,” said someone who has worked with her. “She plays the outsider role very well with a lot of inside connections.”
Peacemaking, however, has given way to a legal fight with Greek shipping magnate Victor Restis, who has demanded £37mn over her alleged failure to repay money he lent her 15 years ago, a claim she disputes.
The looming court case adds to a tussle with British retail tycoon Mike Ashley related to his sale of Newcastle to the PIF and a skirmish with Barclays, which Staveley accused of deceit for not disclosing it had already raised funds from Qatar on different terms at the time of the Abu Dhabi investment.
In a lawsuit that uncovered sexist remarks about her made by bankers, the High Court found that Barclays had deceived Staveley’s investment firm PCP Capital Partners but declined to award the case to her. Each side had to pay its own multimillion pound legal costs.
Staveley is “good at getting people to put aside their differences” according to another person who knows her. “But she also gets into scrapes.”
Even Staveley’s allies concede her success is partly down to circumstances beyond her control. “Often with these deals, they literally hang by a thread until they’re actually done,” said someone who knows her well.
One such situation came when the PIF appeared to be pulling out of the Newcastle takeover in July 2020 amid a draining battle to win approval from the Premier League.
Although Staveley had got the City deal done, a subsequent attempt to buy into Liverpool had failed. With her Newcastle deal on the line, she kept the faith even as some others on her team wavered.
“Something I’ve learned from her is to will something on, just to manifest it, sometimes that gets things done,” said one person who works with her.
The Newcastle deal was also smoothed by geopolitical developments, including Saudi Arabia and allies ending a regional blockade against Qatar that went back to 2017.
Critics see a financier who is all too willing to work on behalf of autocratic states with patchy human rights records.
“It’s perfect for both sides,” said one person who has dealt with her. “She loves the fame, they need someone to front it.”
Staveley courted controversy last year when, a week after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she told the FT’s Business of Football Summit she did not think it “particularly fair” that oligarch Roman Abramovich had to put Chelsea Football Club up for sale.
Born to a landowning Yorkshire family but told to marry well because her brother would inherit the wealth, Staveley dropped out of Cambridge university and borrowed money to buy a restaurant in Newmarket, a hub for Gulf racehorse owners.
Her next venture, a tech conference centre, attracted more attention from the Middle East and in 2005 she launched PCP, with its advisory work for Emirati and Qatari clients laying the foundations for the Newcastle deal.
Her diagnosis with the gene for Huntington’s disease, a rare incurable brain disorder that would claim her mother’s life, along with a desire to leave a legacy for her eight-year-old son have added motivation to an already-driven personality.
Even with the PIF’s funding, buying Newcastle in October 2021 was a risk. The Magpies’ status in the Premier League was in jeopardy but the new owners steered the club clear of relegation and then finished fourth this year, enough to qualify for the lucrative Uefa Champions League.
Staveley has embraced the attention that comes with part-owning a Premier League side, taking on day-to-day duties, speaking to the club’s in-house media channel and proving she is equally comfortable taking selfies with football fans as she is on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s megayacht.
“She can deal with people. Awkward players. Awkward agents. Managers. Complex shareholders,” said Wilson. “I’ve seen her operating on all those different levels. She’s not intimidated by the audience that she’s in.”