Sheffield United ownership saga: Everything we know and what happens next after latest twist in battle for the Blades

After over two years of litigation, the bitter battle for sole control of Sheffield United appears to be at its end.

Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 10:39 am
Updated Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 10:39 am
Former business partners Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah

A Blades club statement this morning confirmed that Kevin McCabe has been refused permission to appeal the verdict of Mr Justice Fancourt, ordering him to sell his shares in United’s parent company to his former business partner, Prince Abdullah.

United said in the statement that “The Board is delighted that any lingering uncertainty about the Club's future ownership is at an end and that everyone at Sheffield United can now fully focus on what has, to date, been a fantastic first season back in the Premier League.”

What does the latest statement mean?

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Effectively, the battle appears to be over. McCabe’s only chance of getting the Blades back rested on first being granted permission to appeal, and then overturning the verdict at another hearing. McCabe and his legal team first took their bid to receive permission to appeal to Mr Justice Fancourt, who handed down the original verdict in the High Court, but this was denied. The next step was the Court of Appeal, who have also turned down the bid.

What now happens to the ground?

As well as Bramall Lane, McCabe's company also owned United’s property interests including the training ground. The judge ordered that Prince Abdullah should buy these from McCabe at a fair market value, and the statement also revealed: “The Board is also delighted that an agreement, in principal, has been reached with SUL and the Scarborough Group, also controlled by Mr McCabe, over the transfer to the Club of the freehold of Bramall Lane (together with the long leasehold interests in the Copthorne Hotel and Enterprise Centre), plus Shirecliffe Academy, the Junior Development Centre at Crookes and certain parcels of land within the 'Bramall Lane footprint'.”

When will this happen?

The statement revealed Prince Abdullah expects this to be completed in a matter of months. Either way, the judge ordered him to buy them before the summer.

How did all this happen?

McCabe effectively handed Prince Abdullah 50 per cent of United's parent company six years ago, in return for certain financial guarantees. But when their relationship deteriorated, McCabe 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 shareholding – McCabe’s lawyers argued that, 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 training complex and Bramall Lane.

How did it come to this?

The court head how the Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah’s relationship had started ‘optimistically’, but eventually became ‘dysfunctional and acrimonious’. McCabe’s QC Paul Downes said both sides had entered into it believing that they had found a marriage that could work and in August 2013 signed an agreement to split the club 50/50, before their relationship broke down.

How long did the court case run?

Evidence lasted for 15 days in court and the judgement was handed down in September 2019. At times, exchanges in court were bitter.

How much will McCabe receive for his shares?

Prince Abdullah will pay £5m for McCabe’s shares, plus the fair market value for the club’s property assets.

How much did the court battle cost?

In the latest accounts of Sheffield United Limited (SUL), the company through which McCabe and Co. operated their 50 per cent stake in the Blades, it was revealed that SUL spent over £5.6million on 'exceptional legal fees in connection with court case'.