'Banker offered me £5 million to sleep with him', says Amanda Staveley

EXCLUSIVE: ‘A banker offered me a £5 million indecent proposal to sleep with him in the heart of London’: So don’t tell Amanda Staveley, the woman who brokered Newcastle United’s deal with the Saudis, her Arab clients are the world’s worst misogynists

When Saudi Arabia scored a second-half winner to secure a shock World Cup victory over Argentina, few people in this country cheered louder than Amanda Staveley.

After all, the glamorous dealmaker – a former flame of Prince Andrew – has good reason to get behind the Green Falcons, as the Saudi national football team is known.

The 49-year-old owes the bulk of her fortune – said to be up to £100 million – to brokering so-called ‘deals in the desert’ between oil-rich sheiks and a succession of British businesses, the latest of which was the £305 million takeover of Newcastle United Football Club by a Saudi-led consortium.

It caused a storm of condemnation similar to the protests at Qatar’s controversial hosting of the World Cup. Some denounced the deal as a ‘dark day for English football’, allowing a despotic regime to ‘sportswash’ its reputation.

When Saudi Arabia scored a second-half winner to secure a shock World Cup victory over Argentina, few people in this country cheered louder than Amanda Staveley

Others even suggested that Staveley, who owns a ten per cent stake in Newcastle United alongside the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, was betraying women who enjoy little freedom in the desert kingdom.

Wary of fuelling the attacks, Staveley has so far kept her thoughts to herself, but now, with controversy still raging, she has finally stepped forward to speak in her own defence and, perhaps controversially, in defence of her business partners.

She believes, for example, that it is unwise to disparage Middle Eastern states while relying on them for oil and gas amid a cost- of-living crisis.

And as a woman in a male-dominated world, she has her own unique perspective when it comes to double standards.

FOR while Staveley says she has been treated with the utmost courtesy in the Arab world, her account of the boorish sexism that she endured in the City of London is little short of jaw-dropping.

Today she recalls a 20-year career in which, for example, she was routinely called ‘t**s on a stick’ by a senior colleague in banking – and how on one occasion she was offered £5 million to sleep with an older male financier, an indecent proposal that disgusts her still.

‘I know it sounds odd but I kept thinking, prostitutes have to do this every day,’ she tells The Mail on Sunday. ‘I don’t know how anyone could do that. If I couldn’t do it for £5 million, it shows you how desperate people must be.

‘I can’t talk for other people, but I just know that my own experience has been very good throughout the Gulf. I have never experienced any sexism in the Middle East.’

Growing up near Ripon in Yorkshire, Staveley came from a business-minded family.

Staveley shares homes on Park Lane in London and in her native Yorkshire with husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi, a British-Iranian businessman, and their eight-year-old son Alexander

Her grandfather had owned the Doncaster dog track and her landowner father, Robert, founded the Lightwater Valley theme park in North Yorkshire. Their example made Staveley determined to succeed in her own right.

Not even a 2003 proposal of marriage from Prince Andrew, who became besotted with Staveley after they met at the health club and conference centre she ran at Cambridge Science Park, could deter her. To the horror of her mother Lynne, Staveley turned him down, telling friends that Royal life would limit her independence and earning power.

Early ventures in her 20s included running a restaurant, Stocks, for the Newmarket racing set, which helped her build a network of Middle Eastern contacts that would prove key to her future success. Then, in 2005, Staveley set up her own private equity firm, PCP Capital Partners, to funnel investment from the Middle East into multi-million-pound business deals.

Before long, she was cutting a swathe through the male-dominated world of international finance, helped by Abu Dhabi royal Sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, whom she had met while working at Freemarket Global, an investment firm owned by the Abu Dhabi royals.

But the hair-raising misogyny was apparent from the start.

Staveley was still in her early 30s when an investor offered a £5 million investment for a biotech company she was advising – if she agreed to sleep with him.

The financier, whom Staveley stresses was not from the Middle East, had adopted ‘very clever’ tactics. ‘He had pushed all the other investors out, so he was in a controlling position,’ she says. ‘We had worked up the deal all the way through, and we had agreed to meet at a hotel in Mayfair. Then, of course, when we got to the end, he said, “Now you spend the night with me.”

‘It was £5 million to close the investment, and it was made clear to me that the money would be in my bank account if I slept with him.’

Unlike the Hollywood movie Indecent Proposal, the man propositioning Staveley was no Robert Redford. ‘I’d told my secretary I was nervous about going because he makes me feel physically sick.

‘I was running a business, I was paying wages to my staff, I was having to support my team. This deal was critical: if we didn’t close it we would have to pay fees called “abort costs” for abandoning it. It was a huge amount of money.

‘Of course, I wasn’t considering going through with it, I was just thinking, can we talk, and just do the investment without [the sex].

‘I got to the hotel to talk to him, but I just ended up screaming and crying, in tears. I left the hotel, rang my secretary and said this is ridiculous, I can’t do it.

Not even a 2003 proposal of marriage from Prince Andrew, who became besotted with Staveley after they met at the health club and conference centre she ran at Cambridge Science Park, could deter her. To the horror of her mother Lynne, Staveley turned him down, telling friends that Royal life would limit her independence and earning power

‘But I was so angry about what he had put me through – I was so revolted, disgusted.’

It was far from an isolated incident, unfortunately.

At about that same time, in the early days of her career, a British financier would call Staveley ‘t**s on a stick’ to her face, and ‘a bike’ – suggesting that she was promiscuous. Staveley generously says the man, who is now a very senior banker, did not mean it maliciously, supposing he simply knew no better because he had always worked in male-dominated institutions. ‘He was trying to be nice,’ she says. Nevertheless, she recalls, the banter affected her confidence, even though she is a striking 6ft blonde who used to model part-time while at Cambridge University.

‘It made me wear different clothes,’ Staveley says. ‘I am tall but I wanted to hide, so I would slouch and I wouldn’t put my shoulders back. I became very conscious of my body. That was very difficult.’

By 2008, and the time of the financial crash, Staveley was a seasoned dealmaker. She brokered the £210 million sale of Manchester City Football Club to Abu Dhabi’s Sheik Mansour, and then turned to him to inject £3.5 billion of a £7.3 billion rescue deal to save Barclays bank from a taxpayer bailout. The Barclays deal would expose Staveley to the worst abuse of her career. Claiming that the bank had failed to pay PCP Capital Partners a fair fee compared with Qatari investors, Staveley sued in 2016, and the case threw up a litany of sexist mud-slinging.

This time, Staveley says, the insults had been meant to wound.

It emerged in court in 2020 that Roger Jenkins, a Barclays executive known as ‘Big Dog’ who once dated supermodel Elle Macpherson, referred to her as ‘a tart’ and ‘a dolly bird’.

Further insults came from senior Barclays banker Stephen Jones, who, court papers show, called Staveley ‘thick as s**t’, commented on the size of her breasts, and speculated as to whether she had been sleeping with Sheik Mansour.

But Staveley says these remarks were only part of the story.

Conversations between the bankers had been recorded on Barclays’ internal trading systems – and when Staveley and her lawyers listened back to hundreds of hours of transcripts during the process of disclosure in the run-up to the trial, she was appalled.

‘Some of the stuff was things that no one has ever heard,’ she says.

‘You know, someone said I’d given sexual favours to Arabs, that was a horrible thing.

‘I found that really abhorrent. I was really offended by the Barclays stuff, because it was meant maliciously. It was undermining me. They were trying to position me as someone who was only capable of earning money, of doing my job, if I gave favours to men.

‘I think the environment [at Barclays] was very toxic – and therefore if you’re going to put a load of men in an environment where there aren’t many women, the women are going to get marginalised. And that was encouraged.’

In February last year, the High Court found that Barclays was guilty of ‘serious deceit’ during the 2008 fundraising, but ruled that the bank did not have to pay Staveley the £1.6 billion damages she had demanded.

Two months ago, the Financial Conduct Authority fined Barclays £50 million for failing to disclose hundreds of millions of pounds of fees paid to Qatari investors during the rescue deal.

While acknowledging there has been wholesale change in the banking world since she started out, Staveley says that young women are still subjected to abuse and sexism even now.

‘I have younger friends who are in banks who get accused of the same things.

‘I hear commentary from people about successful young women who have done well and they say, “Oh well, she’s obviously s******g somebody.”

‘And that’s sad. There is always an assumption by certain men that a successful woman must have slept with somebody.’

Today, Staveley shares homes on Park Lane in London and in her native Yorkshire with husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi, a British-Iranian businessman, and their eight-year-old son Alexander.

Her power and influence continues to grow. The £305 million Saudi takeover of Newcastle United last October from retail tycoon Mike Ashley was a milestone.

Crowned the Queen of Football, Staveley is a familiar figure at St James’ Park, Newcastle’s ground, often pictured wearing the Magpies’ black-and-white scarf.

At our meeting in a Mayfair members’ club, billionaire David Reuben, whose son Jamie owns ten per cent of the club, leaps from his seat to talk World Cup tactics with Staveley, while her phone pings with messages from the Gulf.

Then, on Friday, she flew from Saudi Arabia to Qatar to watch last night’s England’s quarter-final against France, as a guest of Debbie Hewitt, the first woman to chair the Football Association, and the World Cup’s Qatari organisers.

Staveley acknowledges that the World Cup has shone an unflattering light on Qatar as the contest has been overshadowed by allegations of corruption, human-rights abuses and the deaths of an estimated 500 migrant workers – or more – on World Cup construction projects.

Her investment firm does not currently do deals with Qatar. ‘I have done deals with Qatar but we don’t have co-mingled funds with Qatar any more,’ she says.

‘In Qatar, women have to have a male guardian for their whole life. There are always issues with countries that do not share my beliefs, but I think Qatar, too, will get to a stage where all those things will change.’

Yet she believes Britain has to be realistic about its dependence on Qatari gas.

‘We have a cost-of-living crisis, and making people’s gas bills affordable is really important if we want levelling up across the country. Having calm relationships with the Gulf is really important.

‘We must always do everything we can to improve human rights everywhere in our lives. So maybe the World Cup is an opportunity for everyone to see the great things about Qatar, because it’s a beautiful country with a lot of opportunities, as well as the negatives.’

As for the way she has been treated in person, Staveley says that the man she calls her boss at Newcastle United, Saudi billionaire and club chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan, is hugely supportive of women in business.

‘Yasir is an extraordinary partner. He promotes women so much and his wonderful wife and daughters are part of the club’s family.

‘As a woman, it has taken me a while to prove myself and build trust, but as I have become more successful people have given me the benefit of the doubt.

‘The world is now in a very different place compared to when I was dealing with Barclays. We’ve all moved on.’

She points out that Newcastle United’s women’s team, the Lady Magpies, are now drawing record crowds, and that Ann-Katrin Berger, the goalie in the Chelsea women’s team, is her son’s favourite football player.

‘I’m the mum of a young boy; I desperately want him to respect women,’ Staveley says.

‘That’s why I love the fact that he watches more women playing football than men. I want the women to have a chance to play on the big stage – just like the men.’

And what became of the banker who asked Staveley to sleep with him in the Mayfair hotel to seal that £5 million deal?

‘Years later, when I had grown my business in the Middle East and was in a position of power, he came to me for funding,’ Staveley says, raising an eyebrow in disbelief.

No prizes for guessing that she showed him the red card.

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