Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd has backed prospective owner Mike Ashley to launch a new era on Tyneside.

St James Holdings Limited, the company set up by billionaire Ashley to launch his takeover bid, has confirmed it has reached an agreement to buy up the Shepherd family´s 28%-plus stake in the club in a deal exceeding £37million.

That will take Ashley´s holding to almost 70%, five per cent short of the level at which he would assume control and close in on a £134.4million takeover.

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