Associate of Sheffield United's would-be new owner linked to Rio Ferdinand backed West Ham bid
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Mmobuosi appeared on Ferdinand’s YouTube channel ‘Five’ last week, using the platform to provide a sketch of his plans at Bramall Lane should the English Football League approve his takeover from Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Two years ago, Ferdinand and his brother Anton were both named as backers of PAI Capital’s bid to wrestle control of the east London based outfit. Lawyer Chris Cleverley was a partner at the private equity firm when they approached David Sullivan and the late David Gold about acquiring their shares in West Ham, as well as holding talks with the London Legacy Development Corporation, which owns the Olympic Stadium where they play, about securing a long lease on the ground.
After first insisting no formal offer had ever been made, Sullivan and Gold, who died last month, then reportedly rejected a second approach because, according to reports at the time, they felt it did not ‘prioritise the interests of the club, its supporters or its shareholder.” These claims were disputed by former Queens Park Rangers chief executive Philip Beard, who was described as acting as PAI’s frontman at the time.
Cleverley, the cousin of Foreign Secretary and Conservative MP James Cleverley, is president of Tingo International Holdings; who describe themselves as a “rapidly expanding group of companies” founded by Mmobuosi. Cleverley and Mmobuosi have been pictured together on numerous occasions, including at the launch of the latter’s foundation, which took place at the Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane.
Ferdinand, who spoke with Mmobuosi about his interest in United on the Five platform five days ago, made no secret of his desire to see PAI’s push for West Ham succeed before it was rejected by Sullivan and Gold.
“We love this club with a passion,” said Ferdinand, who made 158 appearances for United’s rivals before joining Leeds, Manchester United and QPR before announcing his retirement in 2015. “Both Anton and I are really happy that PAI want to come in and help improve the experience for fans, and I’m delighted they have asked us to play a big part in the club if their bid succeeds.”
Tingo Inc describe their mission as “the poverty premium and democratise access to mobile, technology and financial services.” Tingo Foods, another arm of the firm, is also said to be involved in building a food processing factory in Delta State, Nigeria.
“It has long been an ambition of mine to help make Africa self-sufficient, in particular its food consumption requirements,” Mmobuosi said recently, in which he thanked the west African country’s government for its help in the project. “We are extremely proud to be building what we believe is the largest food processing plant in the continent.”
Cleverley, a practising barrister who has branched into business, joined AIM listed African Potash as its chairman in 2015 before it was delisted from the index. As executive chairman of Block Commodities, he was involved in the purchase of a cannabis farm in Sierra Leone after BC gained a licence to import the drug into the UK for use in medicines. He has since stepped down from that position and is a vociferous proponent of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. There is nothing to suggest that Cleverley is involved in Mmobuosi’s move for United, which has yet to gain English Football League approval.
Second in the table ahead of tomorrow’s game against third placed Middlesbrough, who trail Paul Heckingbottom’s squad by 10 points having played one match more, United fell under Prince Abdullah’s control following a High Court battle between the Saudi Arabian national and former co-owner Kevin McCabe. Although their partnership initially started on good terms, when McCabe invited Prince Abdullah onto the board in exchange for investment, the relationship between the two men later deteriorated which resulted in their legal tug-of-war.
Now part of a global portfolio of sporting interests called United World, which also includes teams including Beerschot, Al-Hilal United and Kerala United, Heckingbottom’s employers were last month placed under a transfer embargo by the EFL for failing to manage debts relating to previous dealings in the market. Unless that is lifted soon, United face the threat of being prohibited from entering the market for another two windows.
Mmobuosi, who has handed over at least one undisclosed sum of money in return for an exclusivity agreement, is currently having his credentials scrutinised by the EFL who will determine whether or not he possesses the funds to process his agreement with Prince Abdullah and United’s immediate expenditure but also if he and other ‘persons of interest’ who would be in a position to influence the club’s deadlings should that proceed pass its owners and directors test.
Despite the upheaval off the pitch, Heckingbottom’s squad has proven remarkably effective on it since being defeated in last season’s play-off semi-finals. Saturday’s victory over Swansea City stretched their unbeaten run to 13 outings in all competitions. They are scheduled to face Tottenham Hotspur in the fifth round of the FA Cup shortly, after defeating Wrexham following a replay ahead of the clash with City which saw Sander Berge, Jack Robinson and Oli McBurnie all score without reply. United travel to Millwall following the meeting with the visitors from Teesside.