AND so it ended. For now at least.
In rancour and insults. With harsh words and dismissive arrogance.
Becoming only of the man who owns Newcastle United.
And after weeks of hopes and prayers, of promises and wishlists, Mike Ashley showed the Toon Army exactly what he thinks of them.
For months, Ashley has promised he wanted to sell up after 11 years, giving the Newcastle fans what they wanted – him out of the club.
SunSport revealed his November meeting with Amanda Staveley – set up by mutual friend and press baron Richard Desmond – in a North West London curry house.
At that point, as they talked over poppadoms and naan bread, parting with smiles and pecks on the cheek, it seemed as if the ordeal would soon be over.
Ashley would get what he wanted – his cash back.
ASH ‘N BURN Newcastle talks with Amanda Staveley branded a ‘complete waste of time’ and takeover deal is OFF
His dining companion, in turn, would be handed the keys to Tyneside’s greatest communal asset.
Staveley and PCP Partners had the most important ally on board from the outset.
Rafa Benitez is keen to work under a new regime – and made it crystal clear that the idea of staying at St James’ Park under Ashley’s long-term ownership was unacceptable.
Yet when push came to shove, when it started to get serious, Ashley’s behaviour suggested he was not as keen to sell as he publicly claimed.
Staveley’s first offer, admittedly well below Ashley’s asking price, was deemed to be far too conditional.
She wanted to factor in the need for January spending to bolster Benitez’ squad, as well as a reduction in the eventuality of relegation in May.
And also pointed to the potential downside if last April’s raids on the club by fraud specialists from HM Revenue and Customs – Newcastle’s attempts to have the documents sealed only succeeding in letting the scale of the alleged crimes be reported – resulted in fines that could run to £10m or more.
Ashley’s rejection of that came with the demand for a bigger up-front offer for talks to continue.
In November, that came. Staveley offered £250m. Way short of the £350m Ashley said he wanted. And indeed of the £300m that he might have accepted. But enough for negotiations to begin.
For a month, with the lawyers in regular discussions, those negotiations continued as the clock ticked and the end of year deadline swiftly slipped away.
Yet there was an impasse. That £50m difference between Staveley’s offer and Ashley’s minimum price became the sticking point.
Neither side were prepared to budge. Each waited for the other to blink.
Benitez, whether by accident or design – the fans who believe he is their biggest asset certainly felt they knew whose side he was on – put the pressure on by letting it be known he needed players in to keep relegation fears at bay.
But instead of sitting down and progressing the talks, or at least urging his legal team to keep the deal alive, Ashley went to the USA on holiday.
It meant three weeks of a financial and business void.
Ashley, it seemed, was looking to encourage another bidder to emerge.
He has seen the US consortia taking charge at Swansea and Crystal Palace and felt that there were other would-be buyers out there. It was just a matter of smoking them out.
And the longer it went on, the more intransigent he became.
Not that such an approach should have been a surprise.
Ashley’s uncompromising stance in the other departments of his business empire were proof that he has never believed in giving a sucker any sort of break, let alone an even one.
Staveley and her team recognised by mid-December that there was little chance of any sort of deal being reached before the end of January.
And suddenly Ashley realised the chance to justify a higher price, when the Premier League confirmed its new domestic TV deals to start in the 2019-20 season.
With Internet giants Amazon and Netflix potential bidders in addition to Sky, BT and other broadcasters, and the number of games being screened set to rise from 168 to 210, across seven packages, Ashley believes a looming increase in TV incomes will allow him to raise the asking price.
In that, at least, Staveley is understood to be in agreement.
Yet in everything else, the two sides could not be further apart.
Of course, if Ashley genuinely does not want to sell, he could have simply picked up the phone to Staveley’s lawyers and informed them of his change of heart. They would have walked away.
Instead, he branded the past three months “exhausting, frustrating and a complete waste of time”.
Ashley wants to get his way. All the time. It is the secret of his success.
But it leaves the Newcastle fans, the people who should count most, as collateral damage. Unless it is all a giant bluff. Which means we could be back here in a few weeks.