Sheffield United: What we know so far about HRH Prince Abdullah Bin Mosa'ad Abdulaziz Al Saud's attempt to become sole owner
As Sheffield United confirmed last week, HRH Prince Abdullah Bin Mosa'ad Abdulaziz Al Saud is attempting to take sole charge of the Championship club after exercising an option to buy-out fellow co-owner Kevin McCabe.
OWNERSHIP STRUCTURE: Sheffield United’s parent company is Blades Leisure Limited (BLL). This is a joint venture between Sheffield United Limited (SUL), controlled by McCabe and his family, and companies controlled by Prince Abdullah.
WHAT TRIGGERED THE TALKS: On January 26th, SUL started a process which prompted UTB LLC, one of those companies controlled by Prince Abdullah, to serve a notice stating they wanted to buy its 50 per cent stake in BLL. This suggests the agreement, which saw Prince Abdullah become co-owner, in September 2013, contains a clause allowing for such an action. It also indicates, although this has not been officially confirmed, that one or both of the co-owners wanted to end their relationship. Prince Abdullah paid a nominal £1 to become a co-owner, promising to invest an undisclosed sum in return.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW: Prince Abdullah and his representatives will continue their discussions with McCabe, who together with his family are estimated to have made around £100m available to United since the Nineties. In order to complete a deal, Prince Abdullah must acquire the freehold of Bramall Lane and also the long leashold agreements in the Copthorne Hotel, Enterprise Centre, Steelphalt Academy and Junior Development Centre at Crookes. The value of these is unknown but will have been privately relayed at the start of these negotiations.
THE BOARDROOM: In September, it was announced that Stephen Bettis, previously United’s chief executive and Martin Green would be joining Jeremy Tutton in representing the” McCabe Family interests” on the boards of Sheffield United Football Club and BLL. Other representatives on the board were Prince Abdullah, Tareq Hawasli and Yusuf Giansiracusa; a lawyer based in Riyadh. In December, McCabe’s sons Scott and Simon, who had previously stepped down, returned to the board of BLL together with Kevin. Jan Van Winckel, an associate of Prince Abdullah, was also appointed to the boards of BLL and Sheffield United Football Club. Van Winckel, a Belgian, is technical director of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and previously an assistant manager of teams including Club Brugge, Beerschot AC and Marseille.
ELSEWHERE: Earlier this month, Beerschot Wilrijk, who compete in the Proximus League, announced Prince Abdullah had agreed to invest in the club. Van Wincke, who remains a United director, also becomes a director of the Antwerp based club.
THE STATEMENT IN FULL:
February 8: His Royal Highness Prince Abdullah Bin Mosa’ad Abdulaziz Al Saud (the Prince) and Kevin McCabe are in discussions regarding the transfer of ownership and control and Sheffield United Football Club to the Prince.
Sheffield United Football Club is part of the Blades Leisure Limited group, a joint venture between Sheffield United Limited, controlled by the McCabe family, and companies controlled by the Prince.
Ownership of Blades Leisure Limited is governed by an Investment Agreement dated 30th August 2013 which provides for the transfer of control of Blades to the Prince. The Investment Agreement also includes a provision for the transfer of the Club in certain circumstances of the freeholds of Bramall Lane Stadium (and the long leasehold interests in the Copthorne Hotel and Enterprise Centre) plus Shirecliffe Academy and the Junior Development Centre at Crookes.
In response to a process commenced by Sheffield United Limited, on 26th January 2018 UTB LLC, a company controlled by the Prince, served a notice exercising an option to purchase the remaining 50% of Blades Leisure from Sheffield United Limited. Both parties are currently in negotiation with regard to the remaining provisions in the Investment Agreement and hope to come to a final settlement in the near future.
The Prince and Kevin McCabe want to reassure everyone connected to the club that the current negotiations and transfer of ownership will have no impact on the club’s management and its staff.