BLADES IN COURT: Prince wanted to ‘wear Sheffield United co-owner down’, court hears
A Sheffield United board member has been accused of directing ‘nasty, personal’ attacks against club co-owner Kevin McCabe.
The claim was made today at the High Court during tense exchanges between long-time Prince Abdullah associate Yusuf Giansiracusa and Paul Downes QC for McCabe, on the tenth day of a trial which will rule on the long-running ownership dispute between the two men.
On the third and final day of Mr Giansiracusa’s cross-examination on Friday, he was repeatedly asked about the breakdown of the co-owners’ relationship and subsequent attempts to buy the club from each other in late 2017 and early 2018.
Mr Downes suggested that Mr Giansiracusa and Prince Abdullah during this period were trying to ‘wear Mr McCabe down’ in a ‘war of attrition’, thus provoking him into making an offer for the club.
An email read out in court which had been drafted by Mr Giansiracusa in the aftermath of Mr McCabe’s unilateral decision to stop CEO Stephen Bettis’ pay said he was a ‘bully’ and that ‘no one in Sheffield liked him’.
Mr Downes said: “I am not denying your right to send a robust email. But this goes further. It is deliberately intense to provoke a reaction. It is personal.
“You are trying to push him out. I suggest to you that it was part of a deliberate strategy to escalate hostilities.”
The incendiary email was followed by others, said Downes, in which Mr Giansiracusa went so far as to threaten McCabe’s ‘standing within the club and the community’
Giansiracusa said he and Prince Abdullah wanted to make clear to Mr McCabe that he ‘needed to behave himself’, and that they ‘were not going to tolerate’ the kind of things that had gone on with Bettis and newly appointed finance director Radcliffe.
Mr McCabes actions over Stephen Bettis’ pay were completely ‘beyond the pale’ and had ‘flabbergasted’ him, he added.
Sign up to our daily newsletter
Asked whether he felt ‘a strong antipathy’ towards Mr McCabe, Mr Giansiracusa said that over time he ‘lost respect for him’.
“He misused the power and influence his status in the community gave him in the context of the joint venture with Prince Abdullah,” said Mr Giansiracusa.
“It is not diplomatic or kind language but it is truthful, it is accurate. He may be liked and loved by many and is also reviled by many, like a lot of people who run sports franchises.”
In the morning session, Mr Downes accused Mr Giansiracusa of inserting ‘favourable minutes’ in the record of meetings between the co-owners, in the hope they would be missed by McCabe and his staff, an allegation that Mr Giansiracusa denied.
And later, Mr Downes asked Mr Giansiracusa about UTB’s ‘scheme’ to buy the club without also purchasing the club’s property interests, as had been envisaged in the 2013 agreement between the co-owners.
Mr Downes said UTB’s actions in exploiting a loophole in the agreement were ‘unconscionable and dishonest’.
“Do you accept it isn’t morally acceptable to take advantage of someone else’s mistake,” he said.
“You knew full well when you got the call option that the assumptions SUL were acting on were wrong and you deliberately took advantage of that.”
Mr Giansiracusa, however, said that he felt under no obligation to tell McCabe and SUL what UTB were planning, and it would be for the judge to decide whether it was morally acceptable or not.
The case will continue on Tuesday, June 4 with Prince Abdullah taking the stand.