Revealed: Sheffield United's stance on takeover money paid during talks
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Mmobuosi, whose companies are facing a series of legal problems in the US following a series of allegations about their business practices, confirmed he handed over a sum just short of £9m as part of his bid to acquire United earlier this year. That has now seemingly collapsed, as the Nigerian attempts to stave-off the criticisms levelled against both Tingo, the firm he was responsible for establishing, and himself by Hindenburg Research. A number of lawyers in North America are now preparing class actions on behalf of investors they claim have been adversely affected by HR’s report, which is disputed by both Tingo and its associates.
With Mmobuosi seemingly no longer in the running to buy United, concerns have been expressed that he could ask for the funds he deposited to be returned. The handover formed part of the process which saw Mmobuosi granted exclusivity rights at a time when current owner Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was accelerating his search for a successor or external sources of investment as Paul Heckingbottom’s squad edged towards promotion from the Championship.
A statement issued by Mmobuosi when this window expired explicitly referenced the fact that he placed the amount in an account not controlled by United themselves.
“I wish to state categorically that I have not withdrawn my bid to acquire Sheffield United Football Club,” the 43-year-old said at the time. “Beyond the £8.85m paid to United World (UW), I will continue to work with the experts and professionals I hired to buy the club.”
The monies were not designed to be used by the club itself but rather were viewed as a means to ensure Prince Abdullah was unable to meet with any of the other parties who have since expressed an interest in taking control of United, following Mmobuosi’s failure to gain the necessary financial approvals from the English Football League whose jurisdiction they were previously under.
They include consortiums and private individuals from the States and the Middle East.
MORE: Mmobuosi’s counter move
Although Mmobuosi could challenge United’s stance, Prince Abdullah’s advisors are said to be satisfied the law is on their side - a situation which means they can focus on trying to help Heckingbottom prepare a team capable of retaining top-flight status. Despite his comments two months ago, Mmobuosi is now likely to be preoccupied with trying to protect Tingo’s reputation.
MORE: Legal issues mount
UW, the organisation Prince Abdullah uses to oversee his sporting interests which include Beerschot and Chateauroux as well as United, are based in Switzerland. Chateauroux are battling to remain professional after being granted time to appeal a decision to demote them into France’s amateur divisions.
After guaranteeing themselves payments of at least £170m over the course of the next three years by regaining PL membership, United are now a much more attractive proposition than when they were in the second tier.
Although he boasts connections in the States, Prince Abdullah has a track record of trying to source additional backing from fellow Saudi Arabians. Sela Sports, owned by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund and now Newcastle’s major sponsors, were once viewed as potential partners whilst United were still under dual ownership.