Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz al Saud is the sole owner of Sheffield United after the High Court ruled he could buy co-owner, Kevin McCabe’s, shares for £5m.
McCabe wanted to appeal the decision, but he was refused permission. It meant the lifelong Blades fan had to step away from the club for the first time since becoming a director in 1995.
The Guardian reports that McCabe spent “multi-millions” during that time, including the improvement of Bramall Lane stadium. He also helped fund losses as United went from the Premier League in 2007 to League One in 2011.
In 2013, Prince Abdullah invested £10m. In return, he received 50 percent of McCabe’s shares. Yet when the two men later fell out, it lead to a long legal battle that eventually ended up in the High Court.
How Prince Abdullah bought £52m worth of shares for £5m
There was a clause in the original agreement when the Saudi prince invested in the Blades. It allowed the two men to end their joint shareholding should they no longer wish to work together.
McCabe activated this in December 2017, asking Prince Abdullah to buy him out for £5m – or sell his shares for the same price. However, if this happened the Saudi prince would then own 75 percent of the overall shares and therefore be required to buy the stadium, academy and other properties.
These had been separated from the ownership by McCabe to try and make investment more appealing. They were valued at between £40m and £50m.
McCabe knew that Prince Abdullah was not wealthy enough to afford to buy both his shares and the property. Especially as United were in the Championship at the time.
“He tried to screw me, he got screwed,” Prince Abdullah told the Guardian.
“Remember, we were still in the Championship, so it’s not only that you have to pay the £40m, you have also to finance every year a deficit of between £10m and £15m, which will make it impossible for the team. If I put the money in real estate I have no money to improve the team.
“He wanted to get my shares for £5m; is that fair? Kevin thought both scenarios are good for him; he thought either he buys me out or I have to buy him out and buy the real estate … He wanted to use the agreement to screw me.”
What happened next?
Once McCabe had 100 percent of the shares he wanted to sell some to American investor, Alan Pace. Yet Prince Abdullah and his lawyer, Yusuf Giansiracusa, had a plan.
They would create a new company and transfer some of the shares over to that. Then, when McCabe’s were bought for £5m, the Saudi prince wouldn’t technically own 75 percent overall and be forced to purchase the properties.
McCabe refused to sell, saying this was in breach of the agreement. It went to court, who ruled in favour of Prince Abdullah.
At the same time the club had been promoted to the Premier League and received the huge financial benefits that come with that. Suddenly the Blades were worth £104m, but McCabe still had to sell his 50 percent – worth £52m – for just £5m as originally proposed.
Now Prince Abdullah had these new revenues from TV money and other cash windfalls, he could use that to buy the properties. Rather than his own money.
The timing couldn’t have been better.
“When he put us in a corner, should I sell him my shares for cheap? No, I will not do that. He forced us to do what we did. And if anybody has to feel sorry, he should feel sorry,” the prince said.