Mike Ashley has been told to step back from talks to sell Newcastle United.

The Telegraph says the Newcastle owner has instructed the former Football League chairman, Keith Harris, to find a purchaser to take the club off his hands.

Despite the Sports Direct founder's undoubted business acumen, Harris has insisted that he will not be allowed to participate in negotiations over the club's sale. A group of unnamed Nigerian businessmen are already in the running and interest from the United States, Kuwait and the Far East is starting to solidify.

Ashley will be banking on Harris to strike a deal given his past roles in Thaksin Shinawatra's takeover of Manchester City, Randy Lerner's successful pursuit of Aston Villa and the Icelandic purchase of West Ham.

Sources close to Ashley, who put the club up for sale due to the fans' backlash caused by manager Kevin Keegan's resignation, believe he does not expect the club to change hands before the end of next month at the earliest.