Leeds United: Harvey in the dark over club ownership

Leeds United's chief executive Shaun Harvey at the meeting.
Leeds United's chief executive Shaun Harvey at the meeting.
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Leeds United’s chief executive has admitted he does not know who is behind the trusts that control the club.

But Shaun Harvey hit back at any claims that fans should be concerned about who exactly is in charge, insisting the Whites are in much better health under their current management structure.

Mr Harvey was speaking at an inquiry into football governance by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, held at Burnley FC’s Turf Moor ground yesterday.

Leeds chairman Ken Bates was due to attend, but the committee was told he was unable to as he was suffering from bronchitis.

But members of the panel wasted little time grilling substitute Mr Harvey on the details of the Elland Road outfit’s ownership structure.

Mr Harvey told them the Whites’ principal shareholder was a company called FSF Limited, which holds around 72% of the issued shares.

He said shares are held on behalf of three separate “discretionary trusts” which are managed out of Switzerland.

Asked if he knew the names of the main beneficiaries of those trusts, he replied that he did not, but said he did not find that unusual.

He said: “If I was the chief executive of a club that was listed on the stock market, I wouldn’t expect to know every shareholder.”

He added: “That’s the nature of discretionary trusts which are a perfectly legitimate and much-used ownership structure in many different industries, not just football.”

Asked if he thought the fans were concerned, he added: “We’re fifth in the league and everyone seems to be happy with how the club is progressing.”

Mr Harvey was joined at the inquiry by bosses from other clubs Crewe, Burnley and Exeter, and answered a string of questions for over an hour on topics including youth development, finance and player’s wages.

The inquiry also asked him to look back at the club’s recent troubled times, which saw a torrid period on and off the pitch culminate in the club entering administration in May 2007 and subsequent relegation to the third tier of English football.

Asked what was behind the slump, Mr Harvey said: “I think it was poor financial management. The gamble was too big in essence and it’s that which saddled the club ever since until the administration in 2007.”

He added: “There has been a potted history and a concern but I am convinced that the light at the end of the Elland Road tunnel is the way out rather than a train coming in the other direction.”

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