US interest in Sheffield United predates social media post which set tongues wagging
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With current owner Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdualziz Al Saud considering selling his shareholding and talks with Nigerian entrepreneur Dozy Mmobousi stalling in recent months, a number of individuals and organisations, including one understood to have interests within Silicon Valley, are known to be compiling dossiers on Bramall Lane ahead of potential swoops.
Others are believed to have made contact with a brokerage service, with links to a major American bank, which has a proven track record of selling clubs in both England and Europe. Although Prince Abdullah and his associates are yet to respond to requests by its representatives for talks about United’s future, the fact that a number of leading trans-Atlantic financiers view United as a potentially viable acquisition could eventually persuade them to make contact. Analysts employed by the group, which boasts contacts within the worlds of sport and commerce, are known to ‘pair’ its clients with particular opportunities and, for those who are ready to submit bids, ask them to place the necessary funding in an escrow account. This is designed to avoid some of the problems Mmobuosi experienced after agreeing a price, initially believed to be in the region of £115m, with Prince Abdullah before his period of exclusivity expired. The English Football League, who will be required to approve any takeover of United until they receive their PL share next month, asked Mmobuosi, who primarily operates within the agri-fintech sector, to provide evidence he could cover not only the purchase price but around two seasons worth of backing during a series of meetings earlier this year.
Prince Abdullah, who is known to split his time between the US, France, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia, is expected to have briefed manager Paul Heckingbottom on his plans for United during a meeting in Geneva earlier this week. Ostensibly called to discuss transfer targets following united’s promotion from the Championship, the fact Heckingbottom’s recruitment budget could be affected by a change of ownership should mean United’s top brass felt obliged to update the 45-year-old on any off-the-pitch developments. However, Heckingbottom has previously stated that he is only provided with “the necessary” information to assist his future planning rather than detailed assessments of events at board level. “It’s not my club, I’m an employee,” he reminded earlier this year. “It’s important that I concentrate on the football.”
Although Mmobuosi claims that he is pressing ahead with his bid for United, Prince Abdullah published a picture of himself with representatives of the San Francisco 49’ers earlier this week. An avid fan of the NFL franchise, which is heavily involved with Yorkshire rivals Leeds, this inevitably prompted a wave of speculation that United are on the verge of being sold. However, as this newspaper has reported on numerous occasions, interest in them from the US predates what was almost certainly a carefully choreographed move by Prince Abdullah.
Before making contact with Mmobuosi, United also entered into talks with California based TV executive Henry Mauriss, who was later imprisoned for wire fraud.