Sheffield United: Prince Abdullah wins ownership battle as Kevin McCabe considers an appeal
HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa'ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has won the High Court case designed to settle the ownership dispute between himself and fellow co-owner Kevin McCabe.
After spending three months considering the evidence following a hearing in London earlier this summer, Mr Justice Fancourt published his findings this morning.
When the judgement was announced, Prince Abdullah immediately released a statement while McCabe confirmed he is considering an appeal.
Prince Abdullah's statement read: "This morning, the High Court issued its judgement requiring Sheffield United Limited to sell its shares of Blades Leisure Limited to me and dismissing all of the claims which SUL has made against my and my lawyer, Mr Yusuf Giansiracusa. I am delighted that this judgement brings to an end the uncertainty over Sheffield United's future. Our manager Chris Wilder and the team are off to a promising start and we can now focus on this vital Premier League season under stable ownership."
McCabe handed Prince Abdullah 50 per cent of United's parent company BLL six years ago, in return for certain financial guarantees. But when their relationship deteriorated, he submitted a takeover bid which, under the terms of their original investors agreement, was countered by the Saudi royal. However, McCabe refused to process the deal after objecting to a 'corporate manoeuvre' involving UTB's share holding. UTB is the vehicle Prince Abdullah uses to represent his interests in BLL. But by transferring a portion of its stake to a newly registered company, UTB did not immediately have to acquire United's property interests, which include the Steelphalt Academy training complex and Bramall Lane itself.
"When I first became involved with Sheffield United...I said that the Premier League should be our target, even though we were in League One," Prince Abdullah continued, revealing he plans to purchase United's property assets within the next 12 months. "I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved together over the past six years. As we turn a new page at Bramall Lane, my first priority is to secure our position in the top tier for many years to come. To help realise that ambition, I am fully committed to continued investment in both the first team and the academy and to bringing best practices and the highest standards of management to the club.
"I also look forward to hearing from the fans, club staff and other stake holders regarding ways in which we can improve the match day experience and support the community that has loyally supported us. One initiative underway is the unification of the club and its key properties. We want to own our stadium and intend to complete this integration within the coming year."
McCabe, who has been involved with United for over two decades, was described as being "heartbroken" upon learning of the outcome.
"Kevin McCabe is bitterly disappointed with the outcome of today’s judgment," a spokesperson for the McCabe family said. "He has supported Sheffield United through thick and thin going back to the 1950’s and wishes nothing more than success for the club, its supporters and the many staff employed by it.
"The McCabe family have invested more than £100m into the football club over the years, and the Judge’s warm tribute to Kevin McCabe’s generosity in this regard was extremely welcome. Kevin McCabe has been the longest serving director and/or owner of Sheffield United in the history of the club. For the McCabe family to have lost their connection with the football club in this manner and by way of this judgment is simply heart breaking."
"Kevin feels a deep sense of betrayal and is in a state of shock about the way that he has been treated by Prince Abdullah and he now deeply regrets going into business with him," the spokesperson continued. "When the McCabes entered their partnership with Prince Abdullah in 2013 they believed that the Prince was a man of very considerable resources with sufficient wealth to inject the sort of money into the football club that would see it reach its full potential. As the judgment details, the McCabes were very seriously misled about the true extent of Prince Abdullah’s wealth and had to rescue the club from insolvency because of the Prince’s impecuniosity around December 2016. Had the Prince not been strapped for cash at this time it may be that no finance would have been needed from Mr Saleh bin Laden."
That comment referred to events during June's hearing, when it emerged a member of the bin Laden family had been involved in discussions with Prince Abdullah,. The family are major investors in a number of projects, in the Middle East, Europe and beyond.
"It will not surprise readers of the judgment to learn that the McCabes do not agree with every aspect of the Judge’s decision," the McCabe's spokesperson noted. "However they are nevertheless grateful to the Judge for the time and care he has taken over the judgment and they wish to make clear that in disagreeing with some of the conclusions they mean no disrespect to the Judge. Serious consideration is now being given, with the advisors to Sheffield United Limited, to an appeal against the judgment.
"Mr McCabe sincerely hopes that he is proved wrong in relation to his deep misgivings about the suitability of Prince Abdullah as an appropriate custodian of Sheffield United. In this regard, only time will tell. For the moment however the McCabe family are simply deeply grieved that matters should have come to this."
United also issued an official statement, responding to events in London.
"This morning, the High Court of Justice, Business and Property Courts of England and Wales, issued its judgment requiring Sheffield United Limited (SUL), a company controlled by Mr Kevin McCabe, to sell its shares in Blades Leisure Limited (Blades), the parent of Sheffield United Football Club Ltd, to UTB, LLC, a company owned by H.R.H. Prince Abdullah bin Mosa'ad bin Abdulaziz Al Sa'ud," it said.
"The judgment also dismissed all of the claims which SUL had made against Prince Abdullah, UTB and SUFC and Blades board member Mr Yusuf Giansiracusa," the statement added. "After over 20 months of contentious litigation, the Club is delighted that this judgment brings an end to the uncertainty over Sheffield United's future ownership and allows us to focus our full attention on the season ahead."