September 17 – Sheffield United, back in the English Premier League after 12 years, look set to be controversially taken over by the Saudi prince who already owns 50% of the club.
After a two-year legal battle for overall control, Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud has won a bitter High Court row with lifelong fan KevinMcCabe who said he was “bitterly disappointed” with the judgement that he must sell his stake to Prince Abdullah for £5 million and that he was considering an appeal.
The court heard McCabe had invested £100 million in the club over a number of years. He met Prince Abdullah in 2013 while looking for fresh investment in the club, then in League One, the third tier of English football.
Prince Abdullah, a member of the Saudi royal family, invested £10 million but the two men fell out in 2017 over funding.
Sheffield United Ltd, the company run by McCabe and his family, eventually made an offer to buy out the prince for £5 million. But the offer also gave the prince’s company, UTB LLC, the option to buy Mr McCabe’s shareholding at the same price.
Mr Justice Fancourt ruled that although McCabe had “injected tens of millions of pounds into the club out of love and loyalty, not for financial return”, the contract of sale and purchase of Sheffield United Ltd’s shares could not be set aside.
He also dismissed a claim for damages, saying UTB LLC had not conducted affairs in a manner unfairly prejudicial to the interests of Sheffield United Ltd.
The judgement comes at a highly sensitive time given Saudi Arabia’s much-publicised pirating of tv rights that has been condemned globally. It was even claimed in court that Prince Abdullah had secured a £3 million loan from a relative of Osama bin Laden to help fund the club.
A spokesman for McCabe did not mince his words. “He has supported Sheffield United through thick and thin going back to the 1950s and wishes nothing more than success for the club, its supporters and the many staff employed by it. 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.”
Prince Abdullah, a grandson of modern Saudi Arabia founder King Abdulaziz, said he was delighted by the judgement.
“No owner, director, coach or player is bigger than the club but together with the fans, we all share the common desire to make the club ever greater,” he said.
A club 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.”
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