Sheffield United owners in High Court dispute over club ownership

The joint owners of Sheffield United Football Club are in a High Court battle for majority control of the organisation.

The club’s chairman Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who each own 50 per cent of the club, are in dispute over the terms of a buyout provision in the initial investment agreement made between both parties in 2013.

Sheffield United has been owned by Mr McCabe and his family for more than 20 years and they have invested more than £100 million into the club over that time, Mr McCabe’s legal team say.

However, it has been reported in the media that if successful, Prince Abdullah could take control of the side for “as little as £5 million”.

Details of the case were made available to journalists, with both parties disputing over who has majority control over the club.

The High Court heard how both men starting working together six years ago when the Prince promised to invest £10 million into the club. However, after their relationship broke down in 2017, a dispute was initiated over who ultimately owns majority control of the football club.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Sheffield United Ltd, the holding company controlled by Mr McCabe, have alleged “conspiracy” and “unfair prejudicial conduct” against the Prince and are seeking damages. According to court documents, the Prince has “found a loophole” allowing him to purchase the club, without the need to purchase the stadium, training grounds and hotel, for just £5 million.

They also allege that the Prince had failed to make two payments of £500,000 and £1,500,000 to keep the club running, despite originally agreeing to invest a sum of £10 million.

“The dispute is about which of the two co-owners of the club can take control and on what terms,” said Mr McCabe’s lead barrister.

The legal team working on behalf of Prince Abdullah, however, are seeking “declarations in respect of its rights under an investment and shareholders’ agreement”.

Lead barrister Andreas Gledhill QC said a number of allegations “of serious impropriety” had been made against the Prince’s company, including an allegation that Prince Abdullah “accepted a bribe”.

Commenting on the case in early proceedings, Mr Justice Fancourt noted that the pair’s relationship had deteriorated to the point that Mr McCabe wished to terminate the joint venture.

The case is expected to continue for at least five weeks.