IN PROFILE: The Prince and the men behind his bid to take control of Sheffield United
As HRH Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud continues his attempt to become Sheffield United's sole owner, we examine the backgrounds of the Saudi royal and the directors he has introduced to the boards of both the football club and its parent company.
HRH Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Was unveiled as Sheffield United’s co-owner in September 2013. He paid £1 for his 50 per cent share of the club in return for providing various financial guarantees. Last month, Prince Abdullah launched an attempt to take sole charge of United following a process triggered by fellow co-owner Kevin McCabe. Aged 52, he is the son of Prince Musa’ed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Princess Fatima bint Hashim bin Turki bik Alngers. Born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, he established the Saudi Paper Manufacturing Company in 1989 but recently told this newspaper that he relinquished his interests after being appointed the Kingdom’s General President of Youth Welfare; a position he no longer holds. Prince Abdullah’s first known involvement in sport came between 2002 and 2004 when he served as chairman of Al-Hilal FC. Prince Abdullah was also chairman of Saudi Arabia’s Football Privatisation Committee, which undertook a year-and-a-half long study into how the Saudi Professional League would work if it was privatised rather than being comprised of clubs which are semi-government entities. HRH, who owns a property in the United States, has spoken of his desire to see United adopt a more international approach to recruitment and introduced Yusuf Giansiracusa, Jan Van Winckel and Tareq Hawasli to the boards of both the football club and its parent company Blades Leisure Limited. He agreed to invest in Belgian club KFCO Beerschot Wilrijk earlier this year, with Van Winckel immediately being announced as a director of the Proximus League outfit, before investing in Darin Partners; of which Hawasli is a co-founder.
Appointed to the board of Sheffield United Football Club in April 2016, the 38-year-old American also serves as a director of its parent company Blades Leisure Limited. Hawasli, whose occupation is described as investment advisor, has worked extensively in the Middle-East and is a co-founder of Darin Partners; an independent investment advisory and asset management company based in Mayfair, London. It was recently announced that Prince Abdullah has agreed to make a “substantial” investment in Darin, although the exact amount has not been specified. Prior to establishing Darin, Hawasli also helped to set-up Georgia based firm SHM landscape and Phidar Advisory LLC; a real restate advisory firm based in Dubai. Hawasli attended Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia, the London Business School and Harvard Business School, where he completed its Owner/President Management programme. The course, which is designed to prepare “successful entrepreneurs to lead a more complex business”, costs up to $44,000 per unit. Hawasli frequently attends United’s matches.
A lawyer, Giansiracusa was appointed a director of both Blades Leisure Limited and Sheffield United Football Club in August 2017. Based in Riyadh, where he is a partner with Jones Day, Giansiracusa was educated at Berkeley and the University of Pittsburgh in the United States. He has worked in Saudi Arabia for around 25 years, representing both domestic and overseas clients doing business in the Kingdom and abroad. Giansiracusa began his legal career in Jones Day’s Washington DC office in the late Eighties after being admitted to the District of Columbia Bar. He has also worked for another global legal firm, Winston and Strawn, where he was the head of their office in the Saudi capital. Like Giansiracusa, Don McGahn, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign lawyer and now White House Counsel, worked in Jones Day’s Washington bureau. Giansiracusa’s biography on the company’s website says: “Yusuf has advised developing country governments on rule of law issues and has assisted in training government officials and professionals from emerging democracies and developing countries in infrastructure projects, public-private partnerships, and international arbitration. Yusuf currently serves on the boards of directors of Sheffield United FC, Blades Leisure Ltd, and several private trust companies.”
Jan Van Winckel
Aged 43, the Belgian was named as a director of Blades Leisure Limited in December last year. This was during a major reshuffling exercise which also saw Prince Abdullah’s fellow co-owner Kevin McCabe, together with his son Scott, also return to the board after initially stepping down four and three months earlier respectively. Van Winckel, who was appointed technical director of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation during Prince Abdullah’s tenure as the country’s General President for Youth Welfare, became a director of KFCO Beerschot Wilrijk when HRH agreed to invest in the Proximus League club last month. Van Winckel coached them between 2011 and 2012, following a spell as a scout for the Belgium national team, before becoming Marcelo Bielsa’s assistant at Olympique de Marseille. His first position in the Kingdom is thought to have been Al-Ahli Saudi FC’s technical director. Christian Gross, the former Tottenham Hotspur and Basel manager, was in charge of first team affairs at the time. A UEFA Pro-license holder and University of Leuven graduate, Van Winckel has helped to implement Saudi Arabia’s ‘Master Plan, Road to Qatar 2022’, which was developed by Prince Abdullah to develop the Saudi Arabia national teams, local clubs, local coaches and players. He is believed to have been introduced to United’s manager Chris Wilder before his appointment as a United director.