Sheffield United takeover: Beefed-up checks and bond structure delays Henry Mauriss' proposed ownership move

The English Football League were first made aware of Henry Mauriss’ proposed takeover of Sheffield United midway through last season, with the complex nature of the deal and stringent financial checks introduced following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine contributing to the delay in progressing the deal.

Thursday, 2nd June 2022, 3:07 pm

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Sheffield United: What must happen before Henry Mauriss' 'takeover' is completed

Although news of Mauriss’ desire to purchase HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz’s shares first broke around four weeks ago, officials at EFL headquarters had already spent months analysing the American’s background and documents relating to the bid. Those, sources with knowledge of the process told The Star last night, included evidence designed to demonstrate he possesses the required level of funding and also papers outlining how it is being sourced and exactly where from.

That process is known to have been beefed-up since the outbreak of war in eastern Europe as sports’ governing bodies attempt to ensure individuals or organisations currently subject to sanctions are not involved in any way, despite an acknowledgment that Mauriss has not breached this rule.

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Sheffueld United are the subject of a proposed takeover by American businessman Henry Mauriss: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The owner and chief executive of Clear TV - which provides and broadcasts programming inside facilities such as airports and hospitals - Mauriss is known to be ready to pay £115m to take control of United; refusing to downgrade his offer following their defeat in the Championship play-off semi-finals.

As reported, a period of exclusivity was granted to Mauriss and his representatives by Prince Abdullah earlier this year when negotiations began to gather pace. However, that has since expired meaning other interested parties can now approach Bramall Lane’s board of directors. There is no suggestion this has happened, with senior figures at United still maintaining lines of communication with Mauriss, who made his fortune in the credit card industry before venturing into media.

Sheffield United's chief executive Steve Bettis: Scott Merrylees

Despite the uncertainty and absence of any guarantee Mauriss’ will receive the go ahead, Prince Abdullah and his associates are still taking key decisions relating to the club’s future, brokering a new kit deal with Italian supplier Errea and also sanctioning work on the pitches at its training complex in Shirecliffe.

The structure

Another factor behind the EFL’s refusal to quickly give Mauriss the green light could be the complexity of the model he is using to generate the capital required to buy-out Prince Abdullah. No details of this have been provided. But companies frequently prefer to raise money via bonds rather than loans, with interest rates on the former, which can be either secured or unsecured, often lower.

This is the mechanism Mauriss is known to be using, with Clear TV promising to provide security rather than United themselves.

H.R.H Prince Abdullah bin Mosa'ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Stephen Bettis: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Mauriss was also linked with Newcastle, before a consortium headed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund seized control at St James’ Park.

Representatives acting on his behalf visited Bramall Lane during the 2021/22 campaign, with current chief executive Steve Bettis expected to continue in post if Mauriss does eventually gain approval from the EFL and take the reins at United.

After initially entering into a partnership with Kevin McCabe, Prince Abdullah became United’s sole owner in 2019 following a High Court battle with the Scarborough based property developer.