Mike Ashley has moved a step closer to sell Newcastle United after it emerged on Thursday (20 October) that PCP Capital Partners signed a confidentiality agreement with the club's owners.

The Sports Direct tycoon is understood to be wanting around £400m (€444.3m) for the club he purchased a decade ago for £134m and, earlier this week, Ashley's representatives indicated they were hoping to conclude a deal by Christmas.

PCP is run by Amanda Staveley, who brokered the deal that saw Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the half-brother of the current Emir of United Arab Emirates (UAE), Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, purchase Manchester City for £210m in September 2008.

In just under a decade, the deal has transformed City and the landscape of English football in a way few thought possible, but it was not the biggest Staveley concluded with the deputy UAE's deputy prime minister.

Earlier in 2008 PCP Capital Partners had facilitated a £5.8bn investment in Barclays by the ruling families of Abu Dhabi and Qatar and by the Qatari sovereign wealth fund, which saw Mansour take control of a 16% stake in the bank.

The deal, which provided the FTSE 100 lender with much-needed funds at the height of the financial crisis and saw Staveley file a £700m lawsuit against the bank, reportedly earned PCP a commission worth £110m, which translated into a £40m profit after advisers received their share.

Mansour's purchase of Manchester City in 2008 was not Staveley's only foray in the Premier League either as, in the same year, she was involved in extended negotiations as Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's Dubai International Capital looked to buy a 49% stake in Liverpool Football Club.

However the deal, which would have earned Staveley a place on the directors' board at Anfield, eventually collapsed.

The 44-year-old businesswoman, who manages £28bn worth of assets, met Newcastle's directors on 2 October as the Magpies drew 1-1 at home to Liverpool, but it is understood reports PCP have submitted a £300m bid are premature.

It would appear, however, that PCP is not the only firm interested in the club. Staveley's company is is one of four groups to have signed a non-disclose agreement – a contract that allows the free sharing of vital information – with the Toon.

"Since Monday, a number of additional parties have come forward which we believe to be credible," Ashley's lawyer Andrew Henderson said.

"We are also continuing to engage with a number of parties with whom we had entered into negotiations prior to Monday's announcement."

However, Turkey's richest man Murat Ulker on Wednesday denied he was among the suitors.

Ashley has twice attempted and failed to sell the club in 2008 and 2009, but the Magpies, who are currently ninth in the Premier League, remain an attractive proposition as they are on solid financial footing.

According to Reuters, as much as £150m will be given to Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez to spend over the next two years. If a deal is struck before the New Year those funds could become available as early as the January transfer window, giving the Spaniard a much-needed opportunity to improve his squad.

The summer transfer window was littered with tales of failed signings and botched approaches for new players and Newcastle have spent only £95m in the 19 months since Benitez was appointed.