The Saudi Arabian prince who has taken over Sheffield United twice rejected the chance to invest in Leeds United.
Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz al Saud has bought a 50 per cent stake in the League One club and promised to invest millions to fund their pursuit of a return to the Premier League within five years.
Reported figures suggest £20m over the next two years on players for David Weir’s side, after the Prince was unveiled by the Blades at a press conference in Sheffield on Saturday.
There he revealed he had originally wanted to buy a Championship club, and had held talks with Leeds, Derby County and Charlton Athletic.
Prince Abdullah even produced a letter of intent to enter negotiations into buying the Elland Road club.
But, with a strict set of guidelines on what the deal must meet, the Prince’s team were unable to progress and discussions ceased.
Prince Abdullah said, unlike the Blades, where he has bought a 50 per cent stake in the debt-free club for a nominal £1 with the promise of millions invested in the first team, the purchase of Leeds would not have been “straightforward”
“Leeds? It’s also an historic club,” Prince Abdullah told the Yorkshire Evening Post. “But it’s not every club you look at you feel excited by.
“And it wasn’t about any club in the Championship would do, and the financial situation – I wouldn’t say messy, but it was not as straightforward a deal as this one was. Hopefully I’ve made the right decision.”
The prince has denied he is worth $18billion – “family money” he says, being the grandson of the founder of Saudi Arabia and the nephew of King Abdullah – with an estimated personal wealth of £130million.
While the Leeds talks ended due to the Prince’s parameters not being met, he did agree to waive two of those – he wanted a Championship club and wanted to take control – when it came to joining the Blades.
United are in the lower reaches of League One and he has become joint-owner with Kevin McCabe. Jim Phipps, the Prince’s principal advisor, has been involved hands-on with the Riyadh-based royal to purchase an English club.
He said they were impressed with Leeds, but from an early stage realised the two groups were not aligned for success.
“At two different points in time, we were asked about our interest (in Leeds United),” said Phipps. “We did some follow-up on those occasions and we made a decision not to be involved. I have to tell you only a fool would think Leeds is not a great club. What a great club and it has so much to offer.
“But Prince Abdullah gave me a set of parameters that would apply to any English football club purchase that he would consider.
“I could not make Leeds in those parameters. The same was true with other approaches from other clubs.
“We took a parameter-based approach, we made only two exceptions which ended up making this investment (at Sheffield United). On the two different occasions, we had multiple people, a bank, arranger, an outsider to the club – who’s connected to management – and at one point we even gave a letter of intent. I think we were seriously willing to explore it in a serious way. But the net result of that was a decision, relatively early, not to proceed further.”
The YEP understands the first opportunity to invest in Leeds came when Ken Bates was owner, before a second approach after GFH Capital took over the club.